TORONTO — The Rays’ offense broke out of its prolonged slump and scored more runs on Tuesday night than the club had in its last four games combined.
Tampa Bay snapped a four-game losing streak as Lucas Duda and Wilson Ramos each went deep in a 6-4 victory over Toronto. The victory at least temporarily pulled the Rays to within 1 1/2 games of the second American League Wild Card spot, while Toronto dropped to 3 1/2 games back.
“We’re all aware of what we’ve gone through over the last 10 games,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, of his team’s 2-8 skid, “so it was a good thing. It didn’t come with one swing of the bat. We pieced together some innings. We had a couple innings where we had two runs, two runs, so there was a lot to like offensively.”
Lefty Blake Snell did just enough to earn his first victory. Tampa Bay’s starter was charged with four runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out four over six innings. It was his first victory at the Major League level since Sept. 22, 2016, vs. the Yankees. Relievers Steve Cishek, Tommy Hunter and Alex Colome took it the rest of the way to preserve the victory.
“I think since I got recalled it’s been a whole different me,” Snell said after the game. “I feel a lot more confident. I just feel I know what I’m doing. I know why I’m doing it.”
Josh Donaldson provided one of the lone offensive sparks for the Blue Jays with a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth. Donaldson has now homered in three consecutive games and has nine in his last 17. After needing 41 games to get his first 18 RBIs, Donaldson now has 21 over his last 17.
Right-hander Marco Estrada took the loss for the Blue Jays as his midseason struggles returned in a big way. Estrada surrendered six runs on 10 hits and four walks over 4 1/3 innings. Estrada has allowed 22 earned runs over 18 2/3 innings in four starts against the Rays this season.
“I’ve got no idea,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said when asked to explain Estrada’s struggles vs. Tampa Bay. “At one time, he was awfully tough on them. That’s the way baseball works sometimes. There are certain teams that get you. Certain hitters that get you and then, really, sometimes there is no explanation.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Duda does it: Runs have been few and far between for the Rays lately but Duda put his team on the board in a big way in the third inning. With Tampa Bay trailing 1-0, Duda sent a deep fly ball over the wall in right field for a two-run homer. According to Statcast™, Duda’s 21st of the season traveled 363 feet and left his bat at 94 mph. It was a wall-scraper but still enough to give his team a lead it wouldn’t lose.
Where’s the D?: Estrada was facing a three-run deficit in the fifth when his defense let him down in a big way. First, shortstop Darwin Barney couldn’t corral a throw from second baseman Rob Refsnyder that would have led to a double play. Then Kevin Pillar lost a ball in the lights and allowed it to drop in front of him for a single. Tampa Bay loaded the bases after the pair of miscues and then Estrada compounded the issues by walking in a pair of runs before getting pulled from the game.
“I’m upset at myself for letting [the defensive issues] get to me,” Estrada said. “I know everybody is trying hard. I’m trying hard and everybody knows that team has given me a hard time. When some of those plays aren’t made it’s hard to let it go sometimes. Normally, I don’t really think about that stuff. I let it go and think I’m just going to [help] my teammates and get the next guy out. Today, it obviously affected me and I walked the next two guys. I walked two guys in. That’s really all I’m upset about, is how I handled it after. There’s no excuse for that.”
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Donaldson’s three-run homer gave him 500 career RBIs.
• Blue Jays lefty Tim Mayza made his Major League debut in the top of the ninth inning and struck out the first batter he faced. He finished with two hits and one strikeout without allowing a run over one inning.
Mallex Smith lined out to Refsnyder with runners on first and second in the top of the fifth, and Refsnyder quickly tossed to Barney to double off Logan Morrison. The Rays challenged the second out, however, and the replay review clearly showed that Barney never had control of the ball. The original ruling was quickly overturned and Morrison returned to second.
Rays: Rookie Jacob Faria (5-3, 3.19 ERA) gets the start in game three of the series at 7:07 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The right-hander allowed five runs in his last outing against the Indians, but otherwise has been very consistent this season and has pitched at least six innings in 10 of his 12 Major League starts.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marcus Stroman (10-6, 3.00) will take the mound when this series continues Wednesday. Stroman will have an opportunity to get his ERA under 3 for the first time since July 22 with another solid outing. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in eight of his last nine starts.