Jeff Niemann gave up two runs in the top of the first inning, on a walk and Jose Bautista’s 43rd home run of the season, then gave way to rookie southpaw Alexander Torres, who shut down Toronto for five innings. Tampa Bay countered with two unearned runs in the bottom of the first off Blue Jays’ starter Ricky Romero, and parlayed a 3-for-3, four R.B.I. day by Johnny Damon into a 6-2 Rays’ victory, as they closed to within a game-and-a-half of Boston in the American League wild card chase.
In a game that had a bit of something for everyone, Tampa Bay’s relief corps came to the front, while allowing Toronto zero runs on only four hits, while tallying ten strikeouts over eight innings of rock-solid work.
Johnny Damon had a hustle double in the bottom of the first inning on a ball that could have been caught by a handful of Blue Jay defenders. Ben Zobrist scored on the play, after having reached base on a throwing error by Jays’ shortstop Mike McCoy that allowed B.J. Upton to score from second base. All tied up at two apiece, the Rays’ relievers took over. Torres struck out five while allowing only three hits in his stint, and Brandon Gomes, Joel Peralta, and Kyle Farnsworth threw zeroes up on the board the rest of the way.
Tampa Bay scored a third run in the bottom of the fourth on a screaming line drive home run by Zobrist, his 18th of the campaign. In the bottom of the eighth, Romero gave up a three-run bomb to Damon, which easily cleared the right field fence. It was Damon’s 18th long ball of the season, and gave the Rays some insurance going into the ninth inning.Romero, 15-11, was victimized by three Blue Jays’ errors, and little offensive support. Tampa Bay stole two bases, had two home runs, and played perfect defense in the victory. At this point, with every game being a must-win, the Rays pitched well and got timely hitting, and Joe Maddon pulled the trigger in going early to his bullpen.
Today, the Rays will hope to fire on all cylinders and push the right button again, starting at 1:40, sending Lake Wales’ native Wade Davis to the hill. Davis is 10-10 for the year, and is coming off a rough start against the New York Yankees, in which he gave up five earned runs on eight hits in 4.2 innings. Toronto sends lefty Brett Cecil to the mound in an attempt to slow down Tampa Bay’s playoff chase.
Joe Maddon told Marc Topkin of the St. Pete Times:
“We normally do the tightrope routine on a daily basis. And it’s kind of comfortable for us now.”