- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

TORONTO (AP) - J.A. Happ couldn’t hide his frustration after taking the loss in one of his strongest starts this season.

Nathan Karns got his first major league win in his Tampa Bay debut, Ryan Hanigan homered for the first time in almost three months and the Rays beat Happ and the Blue Jays 1-0 Friday night to stop Toronto’s four-game winning streak.

Happ (9-10) allowed seven hits in seven innings, struck out seven and walked one. It’s the seventh time this season he’s allowed one run or fewer while working at least six innings, but the first time he’s been beaten in such circumstances.

“That hurts,” Happ said. “You expect to win most of those games.”

It marked the 18th straight game that a Blue Jays starter has worked at least six innings, Toronto’s longest streak since a 19-game run in 1998.

“If you love good pitching, you saw it,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.

Hanigan homered into the left-field bullpen on Happ’s first pitch of the third. The homer was Hanigan’s first since June 16 against Baltimore.

“He was kind of challenging some guys there in the first two innings,” Hanigan said. “I wanted to be aggressive if he was going to come in there and it worked out.”

Over his past eight starts, Happ has worked into the sixth inning or later seven times, but received just 16 total runs of support. Toronto has lost seven of those games.

The Blue Jays, who came in 3 1/2 games out in the AL wild card race, dropped to 76-70 and have 16 games remaining.

“We need to bounce back in the next couple of days,” Gibbons said.

Karns (1-0) allowed two hits in seven innings, struck out a career-high eight and walked two. It was the fourth big league appearance for the 26-year-old right-hander, who went 0-1 in three starts with Washington last season.

“He did a nice job,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That really exceeded expectations.”

After going 9-9 with a 5.08 ERA in 27 starts at Triple-A, Karns labored through a 25-pitch first inning. He walked two batters and hit a third, but benefited from a double play.

“The chance to get him was in the first,” Gibbons said. “He had trouble with the zone, he didn’t throw many strikes.”

Toronto didn’t get its first hit until the fourth, when Danny Valencia hit a two-out double past a diving Brandon Guyer in left. Karns ended the inning by throwing a called third strike past Kevin Pillar.

Karns retired 10 of his next 11 batters, allowing only Adam Lind’s two-out single in the sixth. He finished his outing by retiring a pair of pinch hitters, striking out Colby Rasmus and getting Munenori Kawasaki to fly out.

Jake McGee worked the eighth, and Grant Balfour finished for his 12th save in 15 chances as the Rays won for the first time in three games.


Gibbons confirmed that LHP Mark Buehrle will start against the Rays on Sunday, with rookie RHP Marcus Stroman pushed back to face Baltimore on Monday. Buehrle is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in five starts against Tampa Bay this season. Coupled with Thursday’s off day, Stroman will get two extra days of rest between starts.


Tampa Bay signed RHP Neil Wagner to a two-year minor league deal Friday. Wagner was released by Toronto earlier this month after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in August. Wagner, who’s 2-4 with a 4.92 ERA in 52 career games, is expected to miss the 2015 season while recovering.


Blue Jays SS Jose Reyes was awarded first base after it appeared he had been hit on his left hand by a pitch in the eighth. While Reyes was being examined by the trainer, Maddon came out to challenge, saying McGee’s pitch had hit the knob of the bat. The call was overturned following a video review, and Reyes popped out.


Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-3) faces Blue Jays RHP R.A. Dickey (12-12) on Saturday. Dickey has won his past three decisions, while the Rays have lost six straight games started by Hellickson.

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