Steven Souza Jr. homers as Rays reel off 4th straight win by beating Blue Jays
TORONTO (AP) — Steven Souza got the Tampa Bay Rays started with a long home run, then sparked the go-ahead rally with a bunt.
Desmond Jennings drove in Souza with a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, and the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 Tuesday night for their fourth straight win.
Souza opened the scoring in the first with a drive off the facing of the third deck in center. Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose playing career started with the Blue Jays, said he’s never viewed a longer home run in Toronto.
"I’ve seen a lot of baseball games here, and that has got to be the furthest ball I’ve ever seen hit," Cash said.
The drive was measured at 463 feet, the longest home run by a Rays batter since Carlos Pena’s 466 foot-drive against Washington on June 13, 2009.
"It’s fun when it goes like that," Souza. "Have you ever cut butter with a knife? That’s what it feels like."
The drivet came on the first pitch Souza saw from Blue Jays rookie left-hander Daniel Norris.
"He hit it about 700 feet," Norris said with some exaggeration.
Souza needed less than 60 feet to make an offensive impact with his next hit. With the score 2-all, Souza, reached on a bunt single off Miguel Castro (0-1) leading off the eighth. One out later, Souza stole second and advanced to third on catcher Russell Martin’s throwing error. Evan Longoria was intentionally walked before Jennings drove an 0-2 pitch to center, scoring Souza.
"Desmond’s at bat, to me, was as crucial as they come," Cash said. "When you fall behind on that type of stuff, it’s really tough to elevate a pitch."
Steve Geltz (1-0) pitched 1 1-3 innings for his first major league win. Grant Balfour and Kevin Jepsen each pitched an inning of hitless relief, with Jepsen getting his first save this year.
Kevin Kiermaier made a spectacular grab to retire Devon Travis for the second out of the ninth, leaping against the scoreboard in right-center.
"I feel like if it’s in the air, I’m going to catch it," Kiermaier said. "The only way I’m not going to catch it is if it goes out."
Tim Beckham made it 2-0 with a sacrifice fly in the second, and Toronto chased Rays rookie Matt Andriese with a two-run fourth. Kevin Pillar hit an RBI single and Andriese left after the Rays couldn’t turn the double play on Devon Travis’ grounder, with Pillar sliding into Beckham at second base. Kirby Yates came on and gave up an RBI double to Jose Reyes.
Martin went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and is hitless in 21 at-bats. Martin came up with men at first and second in his first two at bats but fanned each time.
"I’m not going to be down on myself," said Martin, who signed a five-year, $82 million contract in November. "I’m trying my best and I’m going to keep trying my best."
Making his first career start, Andriese allowed two runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings. Norris gave up two runs and two hits in five innings.
With RHP Erasmo Ramirez, a reliever, scheduled to start Wednesday, the Rays optioned Yates to Triple-A Durham following the game. They will make a corresponding move before Wednesday’s game to add another reliever.
RISP VS. REWARD
The Rays are 0-13 with runners in scoring position through the first two games of this series but have won twice.
Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (left shoulder) pitched three shutout innings in his second rehab start at Class A Charlotte. Smyly allowed one hit, struck out four and walked none. He is to start against Sunday at Double-A Montgomery.
Blue Jays: OF Michael Saunders (left knee) sat for the second straight day. He left Sunday’s game for Class A Dunedin after one inning with a sore right hamstring. Saunders is expected to return to Dunedin’s lineup Wednesday.
Blue Jays LHP Mark Buehrle (1-0) went 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA in six starts against the Rays in 2014. Buehrle got his 200th win last Friday against Baltimore. Tampa Bay’s starting rotation has combined for 102 career wins. Ramirez will come out of the bullpen to start for the Rays.