ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Their latest loss prompted Toronto Blue Jays players to call a postgame meeting in response to a 2-9 stretch manager John Schneider described as being "punched right in the face."
"We have to get better," Schneider said after Thursday's 6-3 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays. "When it come down to us as a staff, the expectations are put right in front of you. There is an urgency that needs to be had in order to meet those expectations. Wins and losses out the window, the last 10 days haven't been great, and I think that the urgency in which those expectations are trying to be achieved is not right there."
"Yes, that's on me and the players ... Ultimately on me." Schneider added. "When the players are recognizing that, and when the players are calling attention to that, it's going to hold a lot more weight than any one of the staff members trying to get mad or get in their face."
Zach Eflin became the major league's third seven-game winner in the victory over struggling Alek Manoah as the Rays took three of four from the Blue Jays.
Eflin (7-1) allowed one run and six hits in seven innings as the major-league-leading Rays (37-15) stole seven bases for the second time this season and improved to 24-5 at home. He joined teammate Shane McClanahan (8-0) and Minnesota's Joe Ryan (7-1) as the big league's winningest pitchers.
"Elite pitch execution," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "To get them to swing early in the count and not drive the ball, it's speaks to Zach's stuff."
Manoah (1-5), a 16-game winner last year, extended his winless streak to nine starts after giving up five runs, three hits and five walks over three innings with six strikeouts. He threw just 44 of 87 pitches for strikes and his ERA climbed from 5.15 to 5.53, which ranks 68th of 72 qualified pitchers this season (his 2.24 ERA last season was fourth lowest).
The Rays stole five bases while he was on the mound.
"We know we're better than we're playing right now," Manoah said. "We just need to stick together, and we've just got to keep fighting."
Toronto (26-25) is 8-15 in May. The Blue Jays are 6-15 in division play after going 43-33 last year. They trail the Rays by 10½, and the teams do not meet again until six games during the final 10 days of the season.
"We're all grown men here," Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman said. "It's up to us. We're the one's out on the fields. Our coaches can't hold our hands. We have to go out there, and we have to find ways to win games.
"We have to communicate with each other, help try and make each other better because we are a team. We want to win, and if we want to win a division or play in the playoffs, it's up to us to find ways to get us back on track. It's up to nobody else but us."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.