Pitcher Roy Halladay was going for his 22nd win, a Toronto Blue Jays record, but had two things going against him: the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
Making his 35th and penultimate start of the season, Halladay was ejected by Cuzzi in the sixth inning of Toronto's 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay before a disgruntled crowd of 22,869 at SkyDome on Monday.
Halladay (21-7) was seeking to eclipse the franchise record of 21 wins in a season set by Jack Morris (1992) and equalled by Roger Clemens (1997).
But he wound up thrown out for hitting rookie Rocco Baldelli in the ribs with a pitch after permitting a home run and single to Julio Lugo and Aubrey Huff, respectively.
Halladay had plunked Damian Rolls earlier in the game.
"I'm trying to do the best I can to get out of the inning," Halladay explained. "I cannot see why they think I would try to hit somebody right there.
"I don't really know. It all kind of happened really fast.
"I think they thought we were retaliating for something, but I don't know what. I still don't really understand it."
- Devil Rays-Blue Jays boxscore
Asked if he believed it was intentional, Baldelli responded: "I have no reason to think it was."
"It was right in the middle of a 1-0 ballgame," Blue Jays catcher Kevin Cash contended. "Their guy was pitching a heck of a ballgame and Doc was throwing just as well.
"It was very surprising. It shocked everybody."
"It's a 1-0 game at that point," echoed Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi. "There's no reason for him to hit a guy.
"We strongly disagree with the decision."
Dan Reichert relieved Halladay and promptly walked Travis Lee to load the bases for Rolls, who singled in Huff and Baldelli.
Both runs were charged to Halladay.
Marlon Anderson and Carl Crawford followed with RBI singles to make it 5-0.
"I'm amazed, baffled, whatever word you want to use," Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca muttered. "We strongly disagree with the decision that was made tonight."
Halladay, the major-league leader in wins and front-runner for the American League Cy Young Award, had allowed three singles before serving up Lugo's 12th homer, a solo shot to left.
When all was said and done, he was charged with three runs on five hits with eight strikeouts.
Halladay was coming off a 6-0 victory at Detroit, his fourth consecutive complete-game win.
"I just have to suck it up and go out to pitch again," Halladay said, mindful his final start is Saturday against Cleveland.
Tampa Bay's Toby Hall was also ejected for expressing his displeasure with Cuzzi after striking out swinging.
Two pitches earlier, Hall was hit squarely on the forearm by Reichert but Cuzzi wrongly called it a foul tip.
"I couldn't feel the bat as I was swinging the next time and I snapped," Hall fumed. "That's why there's other umpires out there.
"You've got to ask for help."
Tampa Bay starter Rob Bell was sensational, holding the Blue Jays hitless until Vernon Wells doubled leading off the seventh.
"I knew in the bullpen I felt good," Bell said. "I felt like I had a good plan going into the game.
"It was just going to be up to me to execute it."
"He did an outstanding job," added Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella. "When you see a no-hitter for six innings and see Halladay on the other side, you would think he's the one who's got it."
Wells' hit was his 211th, tying Paul Molitor's 1993 output and moving him to within two of Tony Fernandez's team mark of 213 set in 1986.
Wells scored on Bobby Kielty's two-out double to finish Bell (5-4).
Reed Johnson's RBI single not only delivered Orlando Hudson, who had doubled, but extended his hitting streak to 19 games, a Toronto rookie record.
The Blue Jays (81-75) entered Monday's contest having won nine of their last 11 games.
The Devil Rays (61-95) snapped a four-game losing streak yet have dropped 11 of 14.