ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon feels Tuesday night’s game will a measuring stick for the Rays.
J.P. Arencibia hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Fernando Rodney and the Toronto Blue Jays completed their comeback from a seven-run deficit, beating the Rays 8-7 on Monday night.
“It’s a difficult loss, no question,” Maddon said. “But it’s about how we react tomorrow. You lose a game like this and it’s tough. Everybody is going to go home very upset. It’s how you bounce after the fall. We’ve got to come back and play a good game tomorrow.”
Tampa Bay (14-17) has blown leads in 12 of its losses this season.
The last time Toronto rallied from at least seven runs down to win was June 5, 2007, when it overcame an 8-1 margin to beat Tampa Bay 12-11, according to STATS LLC.
Tampa Bay last lost a lead of at least seven runs on May 25, 2009, when Cleveland came back from a 10-0 deficit to win 11-10.
This time, Evan Longoria hit his third career grand slam as Tampa Bay built a 7-0 lead that Jeremy Hellickson and four relievers failed to protect before a season-low crowd of 9,952 at Tropicana Field.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Hellickson said. “I thought we made good pitches tonight and they fouled some good pitches off. Just couldn’t make pitches when we need to.”
Colby Rasmus and Mark DeRosa also hit two-run homers for Toronto.
The Blue Jays trailed 7-6 when Adam Lind drew a leadoff walk in the ninth from Rodney (1-1). Pinch-runner Emilio Bonifacio stole second and continued to third on catcher Jose Molina’s throwing error with no outs.
Rodney retired the next two batters before Arencibia lined a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats. Arencibia, who pinch-hit in the sixth inning and stayed in the game to catch, hit his ninth home run.
“Fernando was throwing the ball great,” Maddon said. “That was like the 30-something pitch, which he’s not normally used to. Arencibia caught a 97 mile an hour fastball. We’ve had some really well thrown balls hit properly by the other team this year.”
Rodney has yielded six earned runs in 10 2-3 innings this season after allowing five earned runs over 74 2-3 innings last year.
Darren Oliver (1-1) pitched a scoreless inning for the win and Casey Janssen worked a perfect ninth for his eighth save.
Longoria’s seventh homer of the season was the biggest blow in a seven-run third inning against Mark Buehrle.
Rasmus hit a two-run homer off Hellickson in the fourth and DeRosa added a pinch two-run shot off Jake McGee in the sixth.
Down 7-5, Toronto had the potential tying runs in scoring position in the seventh and eighth, but was only able to get one runner home — on Jose Bautista’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the eighth off Rodney.
Buehrle allowed seven runs and nine hits in six innings. He has yielded eight home runs over his last three starts.
“We had him,” Maddon said. “When you score seven runs in one inning, you should win the game, there’s no doubt. You just have to give Buehrle a lot of credit because he gave up seven and did not cave in. That was a classic pro example on his part.”
Luke Scott also homered in Tampa Bay’s burst. The third inning was helped by Kelly Johnson’s fly ball that went over the head of Rasmus in center field for an RBI single, as well as Ryan Roberts’ check-swing infield single that loaded the bases for Longoria.
Maddon asked the umpiring crew to review Johnson’s single to see if it had bounced off one of the catwalks that support the roof at Tropicana Field and therefore should have been ruled a home run. The crew returned to the field after looking at the video and the play stood.
Despite being staked to the seven-run lead, Hellickson only lasted five innings. The right-hander yielded Rasmus’ homer and Melky Cabrera’s RBI single in the fourth and was replaced by McGee after throwing 101 pitches.
NOTES: Longoria’s grand slam was his first since May 1, 2009, against Boston. … It was the smallest home crowd for Tampa Bay since an announced attendance of 9,913 on Aug. 20 against Kansas City, according to STATS. … Tampa Bay SS Yunel Escobar was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game with a bruised left hand. He entered as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning. … Rays 2B Ben Zobrist is due to return Tuesday after leaving the team for two games following the death of his grandmother. … Blue Jays manager John Gibbons decided to start C Henry Blanco instead of Arencibia. “I just want to run one game like that,” Gibbons said. “It’s just something I want to look at.” Blanco’s previous six starts this season came with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitching.