Rays 6, Blue Jays 5
In a game that saw six errors, Joyce turned in the defensive highlight, ending the seventh inning with a running catch on Aaron Hill's soft flare to strand runners at first and second and keep a two-run lead intact.
Rays bench coach Dave Martinez had just moved Joyce, the right fielder, closer to center, expecting Hill to hit the ball in that direction.
''The catch was huge,'' Joyce said. ''I was actually shaded toward the gap and sure enough (Hill) hit it down the line. It was a long run. It saved a couple of runs, it stopped them from tying the game. It was a big play.''
Manager Joe Maddon agreed.
''He's a good outfielder,'' Maddon said. ''Matty has really come a long way defensively in the last couple of years. He made a great play.''
The Blue Jays could have used some of Joyce's defensive ability. Toronto made five errors, one shy of the team record the Blue Jays committed on May 13, 1982, at Texas. Two were charged to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who leads the AL with 10 errors.
''He had a rough night at first base tonight,'' Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. ''That's a fact. We all saw that.''
Rays rookie right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (5-2) won his fourth straight start, allowing four runs, three earned, and five hits in 5 2-3 innings. He walked three and struck out six.
Johnson opened the scoring with a two-run single in the second, ending up at third base on the play after two Toronto errors. Jose Bautista's throw from right field bounced off the second base bag, allowing Johnson to advance to second. He went to third when starter Jesse Litsch's throw to second sailed into the outfield.
''It was an unusual play, no doubt,'' Johnson said. ''It's a little bit different. You don't really expect that to happen, but things like that do happen, even in the big leagues.''
Johnson scored two batters later on Sam Fuld's bunt, with Fuld reaching safely when Encarnacion's high flip pulled Hill off the bag.
After Litsch hit Evan Longoria to begin the third, Joyce drilled the next pitch over the wall in right for a two-run homer, his seventh.
''He just absolutely mangled that ball,'' Maddon said.
B.J. Upton followed with a single and went to third when Litsch's errant pick off throw went down the right field line. After an infield single by Casey Kotchman, Upton scored on Johnson's sacrifice fly.
Litsch (4-3), who had won his previous two starts, allowed six runs, five earned, and seven hits in five innings, matching his shortest start of the season. He walked three and struck out one.
Toronto got one back in the fourth when Corey Patterson led off with a triple and scored on Hill's grounder.
The Blue Jays took advantage of a Tampa Bay error to score in the fifth. Designated hitter Eric Thames drew a leadoff walk and went to third when Davis' grounder went off second baseman Ben Zobrist's glove. Thames scored when Jayson Nix grounded into a double play.
The Blue Jays chased Hellickson with a two-run sixth. Patterson led off with a double and scored one out later when Hill doubled off the wall in left. Encarnacion popped out but J.P. Arencibia walked and Thames followed with an RBI single to center, his first major league hit. Juan Cruz came on and ended the inning by getting Davis to ground out.
Hellickson threw a career-high 120 pitches in his last outing, a shutout win over Baltimore.
''It looked like he was actually a bit tired,'' Maddon said. ''I don't know if the 120 bothered him from last time or not.''
NOTES: Maddon said LHP J.P. Howell (left shoulder) remains on track to come off the 15-day DL on Friday. ... The Blue Jays held a moment of silence before the game to mark the death of former pitching coach Mel Queen, who died last week. ... Thames was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas on Monday when Adam Lind (back) went on the 15-day DL.