CLEVELAND (AP) — John Farrell has experienced several tough moments in his first season as Toronto's manager.
Thursday night's 5-4 defeat against the Cleveland Indians has to top the list.
"That's a gut-wrenching loss," Farrell said.
Indeed it was. Travis Hafner hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning off rookie Luis Perez to cap Cleveland's five-run rally and send the Blue Jays, who have lost six of eight, to another stunning defeat.
The Blue Jays appeared to be cruising to victory before the fateful inning. Carlos Villanueva and two relievers handcuffed the Indians for eight innings and Jose Bautista hit his major league-leading 29th homer in the eighth that gave Toronto what appeared to be a safe 4-0 lead.
"We put together a good ballgame through the first eight innings," Farrell said. "Unfortunately, things came apart in the ninth."
Frank Francisco, who had converted 10 of 14 save chances, began the ninth, but loaded the bases without getting an out. Perez, a left-hander, came on and struck out Michael Brantley before Asdrubal Cabrera lined an RBI single to left.
Hafner hit the first pitch from Perez (1-2) deep into the right-field seats for Cleveland's second walkoff slam of the season. Carlos Santana also did it to beat Detroit 9-5 on April 29.
Following the game, Francisco asked reporters if they wanted to talk to him. As they began to approach his locker, he unleashed a string of profanities and walked away.
Farrell had Francisco ready for the ninth regardless of the score.
"Frankie was hot and he was going to be in the game with a three-run lead," Farrell said. "We get the four-run lead. He comes into the game. It was evident through the first three hitters that he wasn't sharp."
Although veteran Jon Rauch was warming up in the bullpen, Farrell chose to stick with Perez, who had held left-handers to a .193 batting average (11-for-57), to face Hafner.
"Regardless of the atmosphere he's come into, he's pitched very well," Farrell said. "He's been very poised. He tried to get a sinker down and in to Hafner to get a ground ball on the right side on the infield. The ball stays up in the middle and we saw what happened to him."
Hafner had gotten a scouting report from Brantley, who warned him about Perez's sinking fastball.
"I was looking for something up," Hafner said. "I wanted to try to do it early and there it was. That's as hard as I can hit it."
Hafner's 12th career slam made a winner of Tony Sipp (4-1). Hafner earlier this year hit a walkoff three-run homer to beat Seattle 5-4 on May 13.
Villanueva allowed six hits in his ninth start since being moved into the Blue Jays' rotation on May 23. He was looking to improve to 5-1 as a starter after going 8-0 in his final 84 relief appearances since a loss on Aug. 17, 2009.
The right-hander struck out seven and walked two. Both walks came in the first inning, when Villanueva got out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Orlando Cabrera on a routine fly ball to right field.
Indians rookie Lonnie Chisenhall left in the second inning after getting hit in the right side of his face near the ear flap on his batting helmet by an 0-1 pitch from Villanueva. The Indians announced that Chisenhall, their No. 1 draft pick in 2008, had swelling around his cheekbone and eye and would see a specialist Friday.
"I feel really bad," Villanueva said. "I wasn't even trying to go up and in. It's tough. He's a rookie. I hope he's OK."
Toronto took a 1-0 lead with an unearned run in the second on Travis Snider's RBI single. The Blue Jays made it 3-0 in the fourth on run-scoring hit by J.P. Arencibia, who broke an 0 for 18 slump, and Rajai Davis.
Notes: The game was a homecoming of sorts for Farrell, who pitched for Cleveland from 1987-90 and again in 1995, and was farm director from 2001-06. ... Toronto INF Jayson Nix cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Triple-A Las Vegas. ... Jays RHP Dustin McGowan (shoulder) pitched two scoreless innings in a rehab outing for Class A Dunedin on Wednesday. He's been on the disabled list all season. ... Farrell said there is no timetable for the return of RHP Kyle Drabek, 4-5 with a 5.70 ERA when sent to Las Vegas on June 14. Drabek is 1-1 with a 7.02 ERA in four starts at Triple-A.