Kazmir dazzles but Howell falls apart in 9th as Jays walk off on wild pitch

TORONTO -- A wild pitch brought a fitting end to a wild game.

Marco Scutaro scored the winning run on a wild pitch after Rays closer J.P. Howell loaded the bases with three walks, and the Toronto Blue Jays rallied to beat Tampa Bay on Wednesday night in a game in which two umpires were injured.

Rod Barajas hit a tying pinch-hit homer off Howell (6-4) with one out in the ninth. After walking three and with rookie Randy Ruiz up, Howell uncorked a curveball that bounced high off the shinguard of catcher Gregg Zaun, allowing Scutaro to score without a play.

"This is as bad as a gets as a relief pitcher," Howell said. "Everyone does so much work to get there and you just want to get out of there, man."

The blown save was Howell's seventh.

"It's just unfortunate because J.P. has been so great for us all year," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

The Rays are four games behind Boston for the AL wild card.

"You try to move on right then and there," Howell said. "You try not to even carry it one more step with you as you cross the chalk. That's what I try to do but obviously it's a little more difficult in that situation, especially with what's going on right now."

Brandon League (2-5) worked one inning for the win.

It was a tough night to be a home plate umpire. Crew chief Jerry Crawford left after two innings because of back spasms and his replacement, Tom Hallion, was struck in the chest by a pitch from Rays lefty Scott Kazmir in the sixth.

Hallion was knocked backward when Travis Snider swung and missed at a two-strike pitch that seemed to cross up Rays catcher Zaun, slamming straight into Hallion's ribs.

Kazmir was left shaken by the incident, which started when he tried to throw a fastball away that tailed inside.

"It hit him flush, you know, right there in the midsection," Kazmir said. "I heard the sound when it hit him and the way he fell down, I knew it wasn't good. You never want to see anything like that."

Trainers and medical staff rushed to Hallion's side and waved a cart onto the field. Hallion eventually stood up and walked off without assistance.

After a 21-minute delay, the game resumed with Hallion at third base. First base umpire Brian O'Nora moved behind the plate and Scott Barry moved from third to first.

"It was recommended by the doctor that [Hallion] not continue behind the plate," said Crawford, the crew chief. "There was some doubt that he would not be able to continue. If he was having any difficulties breathing or something like that, we wouldn't have let him go back out there. I would have gone back out there. We would have worked three men, I would have gone back out."

Crawford said both he and Hallion are expected to be fine in time for the crew's next assignment, Friday night in St. Louis.

Toronto's comeback cost Kazmir his fifth win in six starts. The lefty allowed one run and four hits in six innings. He walked one and struck out a season-high 10. It's the 17th time in his career Kazmir has fanned at least 10.

"When I got two strikes I had both my slider and my changeup to kind of lean on," Kazmir said. "I got a couple of strikeouts with my slider early in the game but late in the game it was mainly my changeup. I was keeping it low and kind of throwing it off my fastball."

Rays reliever Russ Springer pitched the seventh and Grant Balfour started the eighth but was replaced by Howell with two outs and runners at first and third. Howell got out of it by striking out Snider.

Seeking to win consecutive starts for the first time this season, Blue Jays rookie left-hander Rzepczynski didn't allow a hit until Pat Burrell's two-out single in the sixth. Already struggling with a high pitch count, the rookie's shutout bid ended on the very next batter when Gabe Kapler homered into the left field bullpen, his fifth.

Rzepczynski allowed two runs and three hits in six innings. He walked a season-high five and struck out seven.

Toronto cut the deficit in half in the bottom half on an RBI double by Jose Bautista.

Making a rare start at third base, Toronto's John McDonald turned in the defensive play of the night in the second, leaping to his left to knock down a liner by Burrell, then throwing to first from his knees for the out.

Game notes
Maddon said OF Carl Crawford (sore lower back) is feeling better, adding there is "a solid chance" the speedy outfielder will play at Detroit on Friday. The Rays are off Thursday. ... Rays Double-A LHP Darin Downs was released from hospital Wednesday and is returning home, where he will continue to be under a doctor's care. Downs sustained a fractured skull when he was hit by a line drive Aug. 17.