TORONTO (AP) — Baseball’s hottest team heading into the All-Star break, the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t let four days of downtime dull their winning edge.
Ryan Roberts singled home the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning and the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-5 Friday night.
“We put it down for a couple of days and picked it right up,” said Rays manager Joe Maddon, whose team won for the 15th time in 17 games.
Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, Kelly Johnson and Ben Zobrist all hit home runs off Toronto starter Esmil Rogers, but it was former Blue Jay Roberts whose two-out single off Steve Delabar was the key in lifting the Rays to victory after they trailed 4-1 through three innings.
“It’s a big win for us, especially being down early in the game,” Myers said. “That just shows a good team right there, able to come back right after the break and get a win.”
Zobrist and Myers both had three hits, each coming within a triple of the cycle.
Jose Bautista hit a two-run homer for the Blue Jays, who got solo shots from Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia, but couldn’t protect the lead, losing for the ninth time in 12 games.
David Price (4-5) pitched seven innings for the win, improving to 7-0 in eight career starts at Rogers Centre. Price is 13-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 17 career starts against Toronto.
Johnson singled off Brett Cecil (3-1) to begin the eighth, bringing Delabar on in relief. Pinch hitter Sean Rodriguez advanced Johnson with a sacrifice bunt and Jose Molina flied out before Roberts hit an RBI single. Roberts took second on the throw and went to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Desmond Jennings’ double.
Tampa Bay won 11 of 12 heading into the All-Star break, and is a major league best 42-23 since May 8.
“We were playing the best ball we had up to this point of the year leading up to the All-Star break,” Price said. “To have that four-day break, you don’t want it to mess up the momentum that the team has and just the winning feeling we have in the clubhouse and in the dugout. That was a big win for us tonight, we hit on all cylinders.”
Rodriguez agreed that the Rays were focused on maintaining their hot streak to start the second half.
“Everybody took it upon themselves to say `Let’s come out the same way we’ve been playing,'” Rodriguez said. “We didn’t have a meeting or anything like that. It’s something you don’t necessarily have to address. Everybody kind of just knows `All right, let’s keep it going again.”
Roberts was recalled from Triple-A Durham earlier Friday to take the place of James Loney, who’s on the paternity list.
Joel Peralta worked the eighth and Jake McGee surrendered Lawrie’s sixth homer in the ninth.
Price, who came in having pitched back-to-back complete games in his last two starts before the All-Star break, allowed four runs and seven hits. He walked one and struck out five.
The left-hander was hit hard early, allowing three homers in the first three innings, but gave up just one single the rest of the way.
“I thought he kept getting better,” Maddon said. “He wasn’t bad at the beginning, he just threw it in a couple of bad spots.”
Two pitches after Bautista flied out to the warning track in the first, Encarnacion gave Toronto an early lead with a second-deck homer, his 26th.
Zobrist tied it with a one-out shot in the third, his seventh, but the Blue Jays reclaimed the lead by batting around in the bottom half.
Arencibia led off with a home run, his 17th, Jose Reyes hit a one-out single and Bautista followed with his 21st homer.
One out later, Price walked Mark DeRosa, snapping a streak of 99 batters faced without issuing a base on balls. Rajai Davis and Maicer Izturis singled to load the bases, but Colby Rasmus popped out to end the inning.
Myers cut it to 4-2 with a leadoff blast in the fourth, his fourth, and the Rays tied it with two more solo shots in the sixth. Longoria led off with his 19th and Johnson hit a two-out blast, his 14th.
All four Rays homers came off Rogers, who allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings, walked none and struck out three. Rogers has allowed seven home runs in two winless starts against Tampa Bay this season.
“When he was on, he was dominating,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He never really got into trouble, it was just the solo home runs.”
The Rays made it 8-4 with two runs off Neil Wagner in the ninth. Luke Scott scored on Reyes’ throwing error and Rodriguez added an RBI single.
NOTES: Tampa Bay improved to 21-24 against AL East opponents. … Rays SS Yunel Escobar (right hamstring) was held out of the starting lineup. Rays manager Joe Maddon said Escobar could DH Saturday and return to the field Sunday. … Rays RHP Alex Cobb (concussion) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Class-A Charlotte on Tuesday. Cobb threw 59 pitches in a simulated game at Tampa Bay’s spring training complex Thursday. … Loney was placed on the paternity list after his wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son. He is expected to return Sunday. Johnson started at first in Loney’s absence. … Blue Jays LHP J.A Happ (concussion, right knee) pitched five scoreless innings at Class-A Dunedin in a minor league rehab game Thursday. Happ’s next start will be at Triple-A Buffalo.