OAKLAND -- Suddenly, the opportunity was there for a dramatic, feel-good end to the Blue Jays' five-game losing streak on Friday night.
Another mediocre outing from a starting pitcher and another offensive night to forget were suddenly wiped clean, thanks to catcher Jeff Mathis' game-tying, three-run home run off A's closer Ryan Cook in the top of the ninth.
But Toronto couldn't capitalize on its new-found life, falling victim to Coco Crisp's walk-off sacrifice fly in the 15th inning of a 5-4 loss. It was the team's season-high sixth straight defeat.
Given the A's performance at the Coliseum this season, perhaps the Blue Jays shouldn't have been confident, even after tying the game. Oakland now has a Major League-high 13 walk-off wins this year, and Friday's was the team's 10th in its last 20 home games.
Still, Toronto found itself with all the momentum heading into extra innings. Despite the in-game losses of third baseman Brett Lawrie and outfielder Colby Rasmus due to injuries, the team had to feel good about eventually coming out on top, considering the new-found strength of its bullpen.
"We played our [tails] off, to be quite honest with you," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "For what we were left with at the end of the game, we played our hearts out. But at the same time, it ends up on the wrong side of the ledger, and we've got to regroup and quickly come back here tomorrow."
The Blue Jays had their chances in extra innings, none bigger than in the 12th, when third baseman Omar Vizquel was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Rasmus' double. They also got two runners on base in both the 10th and the 15th innings, but the A's league-best bullpen held firm, and Toronto's inability to string together enough hits continued to hurt the team.
The Blue Jays' bullpen, though, put forth just as admirable of an effort as its counterpart, throwing a game's worth of scoreless innings.
Left-hander Darren Oliver and right-hander Casey Janssen hadn't thrown in a week, but rust didn't keep them from pitching two solid innings each. Right-hander Brad Lincoln pitched just two days ago, but that didn't keep him from lasting 3 1/3 innings and getting out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the 10th inning.
Aaron Loup, too, was solid for two frames, before finally giving up Crisp's game-winner. The performance must be what Blue Jays management had in mind when it made several moves to improve the relief corps over the past few weeks.
"We needed it," Loup said. "We got some guys that needed some work, they hadn't thrown in a while, so that was good to see them get out there and do good. When you come out of the bullpen, you're just trying to keep the game close, keep your team in it, give your team a chance to win. Other than that, I think we pitched pretty good.
"It's just tough luck, I guess."
It was Toronto's second-longest game of the season, innings-wise, after Opening Day's 16-inning affair. It was also one of its most disappointing.
Until the late-game drama, though, Friday night was par for the course for the struggling Blue Jays, who seemed headed for a loss most of the night.
Like he has been all season, starting pitcher Brett Cecil was victimized by the home run on Friday. He gave up two solo shots on the night, giving him 11 overall in his nine starts, and allowed two other runs in five innings.
With the Blue Jays offense continuing to struggle, this time against new Oakland call-up Dan Straily, Cecil's inability to develop a rhythm seemed to be enough to keep his team from winning yet again.
But Toronto's bats finally came alive, with two straight two-out singles in the ninth followed by Mathis' homer. Extra innings provided hope, but it was hope that was ultimately squashed.
"We were in the game the whole time," Lincoln said. "There was never a dull moment. We had some opportunities there to score some runs, and we were all behind our guys. It was just unfortunate we didn't pull it off tonight."
Walk-off losses -- especially in games lasting this long -- usually sting more than ordinary defeats. But perhaps Mathis' clutch home run might be the hit Toronto needed to break free of its offensive woes.
"It's a big boost," Loup said. "It's kind of what we need, a jump start, something to get a little energy, get a little morale going in the locker room, little pep. It's just definitely a jump start. Hopefully it's looking for some good things in the future."
Ben Estes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.