TORONTO -- In his first game back from the disabled list, Toronto ace Roy Halladay was outpitched by a rookie.
Carl Crawford and Pat Burrell homered, Jeff Niemann pitched 7 1/3 strong innings and the Tampa Bay Rays ruined Halladay's return with their sixth straight victory, 4-1 over the Blue Jays on Monday night.
"You've got to pitch well to beat Doc," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That's what we did and that's why we came out on top."
Halladay (10-2) came in having won his past seven decisions, the longest streak in the majors, but lost for the first time since April 21, against Texas. The Blue Jays have lost three straight.
He was starting for the first time since June 12, against Florida, when he left two pitches into the fourth inning with a sore groin that landed him on the disabled list. Halladay allowed two runs and five hits in six innings. The right-hander, who walked two and struck out seven, failed to pitch at least seven innings for only the second time in 15 starts.
"Thank God he's been out for two weeks because they'd have left him in longer," Maddon said. "He would have probably finished that thing off."
Niemann (7-4) won his third straight decision and is unbeaten in five starts in June. He allowed one run and four hits, walked two and struck out one.
"He had a lot of late life on his pitches," Maddon said. "I saw a lot of late life on the fastball and some really good depth on the curveball."
Randy Choate got the last out for his fourth save in as many chances.
The long layoff seemed to affect Halladay's control and limited him to 88 pitches, 57 strikes.
"It wasn't too bad," Halladay said. "Location there in the second and third inning was kind of hit and miss a little bit. For the most part I felt pretty good with everything."
Crawford didn't notice too much of a dropoff with Halladay.
"He didn't look bad," Crawford said. "He still looked kind of sharp, he was hitting his spots. He didn't look terrible. It wasn't like you saw a big difference. He probably wasn't at his best but it wasn't a big difference."
The Rays touched Halladay for two runs in the third. B.J. Upton drew a leadoff walk, stole second and went to third when catcher Rod Barajas' throw sailed into center field. On the next pitch, Crawford drilled a curveball into the second deck in right, his seventh homer.
"We're on a good roll right now," Crawford said. "Hopefully we can keep it up. We're still climbing back up the standings. We're just trying to get into a groove and stay there."
Crawford's homer helped the 26-year-old Niemann breathe a little easier.
"Against a guy like Halladay, to get the early run kind of takes the pressure off you that much more," the right-hander said. "You just go out there and pitch and not really try to be so fine with things."
Halladay responded to Crawford's homer by retiring 11 of the final 12 batters he faced. The only one who reached was Gabe Gross, who was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double in the fourth.
Tampa Bay tacked on two runs in the seventh against right-hander Jeremy Accardo. Burrell led off with a homer to left, his third, and Upton hit a sacrifice fly.
The Rays have hit 38 homers this month, matching a team record set twice previously. They also hit 38 in August 2005 and August 2008.
The Blue Jays chased Niemann in the eighth when Jose Bautista led off with a walk, took second on a groundout and scored on a double by Barajas.
Blue Jays third baseman Scott Rolen extended his hitting streak to a career-high 17 games with a leadoff double in the second.
The Rays stole three bases, boosting their major league-leading total to 121, but were caught stealing twice.
Toronto OF Alex Rios, who is 2 for 21 in his past six games, got the day off. ... Barajas played for the first time since leaving in the second inning of Friday's game with a strained right hamstring. His throwing error in the third was Toronto's first in 11 games. ... Tampa Bay RF/2B Ben Zobrist, who is in a 6-for-40 slump, was held out of the starting lineup but came on as a defensive replacement in the ninth.