Jason Bartlett hit an RBI double in the 12th inning, capping the biggest comeback in Tampa Bay history, and the Rays erased an eight-run deficit to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-9 on Saturday.
“That was a great game for us,” Rays slugger Carlos Pena said. “It’s an incredible boost to our confidence.”
Down 8-0 after four, Tampa Bay cut it to 9-7 heading into the ninth against closer Scott Downs. The defending AL champions tied it on solo homers by Pena and Willy Aybar, handing Downs his third blown save.
Downs took the loss in Friday’s series opener when he allowed two runs in the 10th.
“For me, it’s embarrassing,” Downs said. “Bottom line, it’s not executing. Yesterday I beat myself and today it was just bad location.”
It’s the first time in their 12-year history that the Rays have overcome an eight-run deficit. It matched the largest lead the Blue Jays have squandered, done three times previously.
Dropped to sixth in the order for the first time this season, Pena went 2 for 6 with four RBIs.
“I guess it worked today,” he said with a chuckle.
Facing right-hander Shawn Camp (0-5), Ben Zobrist singled to begin the 12th. After a two-out walk to Gabe Gross, Bartlett hit a double that landed on the left-field line, driving home the tiebreaking run.
“It had a lot of hook on it and I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve hit several balls recently just foul or somebody’s catching it over the wall. It was nice to have one hit a line.”
J.P. Howell (6-2) pitched two innings for the win and Joe Nelson, Tampa Bay’s eighth pitcher, finished for his third save.
Toronto used three walks to load the bases with one out in the 12th but Nelson struck out Aaron Hill looking and got Adam Lind on a grounder.
“We’re exhausted, but it’s better to be exhausted and win than the other way around,” Pena said. “We’re very happy we were able to come out with that victory.”
With no relievers left, Maddon sent starter James Shields down to the bullpen in the 11th.
“I think I would have had to walk 30 to get him in the game,” Nelson joked.
Hill hit two home runs for Toronto, while Alex Rios and Jose Bautista also went deep. Still, the Blue Jays lost for the seventh time in eight games against the Rays.
Hill, who leads Toronto with 24 homers, had his second multihomer game of the season.
Tampa Bay loaded the bases with two outs in the 11th but Camp struck out Evan Longoria to end the threat.
With the Rays in a deep hole early, Nelson didn’t expect a comeback.
“It’s easy to throw ABs away when you’re down 8-0 after four innings and just say, ‘Let’s get out of here early and go get dinner,”‘ Nelson said. “I was waiting for Joe to start pulling guys to give them some rest.”
That never happened. Instead, Pena chased Brian Tallet in the seventh with a bases-loaded triple that caromed off the base of the right-field wall. Brandon League came on and gave up an RBI grounder to Aybar.
“When we made it 9-5 it was like, ‘Hey, we’re within striking distance. We’re definitely not quitting,”‘ Zobrist said.
Tampa Bay cut it to 9-7 in the eighth when Pat Burrell hit a two-run single off Jeremy Accardo, but the inning ended when Burrell was thrown out trying for a double.
It was all Toronto early, as Rays rookie left-hander David Price matched a season high by allowing six runs and nine hits in three innings.
“I just wasn’t any good at all,” Price said.
Toronto jumped on Price for two in the first. Lind hit an RBI double and Scott Rolen singled up the middle, with the ball grazing the middle finger on Price’s pitching hand and bringing a visit from Maddon and the trainer.
After three warmup pitches, Price declared himself fit to continue and gave up an RBI grounder to Kevin Millar.
Bautista hit a one-out drive in the second, his third. One out later, Hill also homered to left.
Rios hit a two-run drive to center in the third, his 12th, and Hill added a two-run shot off Lance Cormier in the fourth, his fourth in four games.
Pitching for the first time since July 8, Tallet allowed five runs in six-plus innings.
Pena came in batting .133 (8 for 60) with one homer and four RBIs in July. Maddon said Pena will bat fifth or sixth for the time being. “I think he’s pressing a little too hard and I want him to back off,” Maddon said. … Bautista had two outfield assists and leads the Blue Jays with seven.