TORONTO (AP) — An abbreviated outing by Aaron Sanchez left the Blue Jays bullpen with plenty of work to do.
Toronto’s relievers handled the task in style.
Russell Martin hit a go-ahead single during a three-run rally in the eighth inning and the Blue Jays posted back-to-back wins for the first time this season, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 Sunday.
The Blue Jays started the day with a 7-17 record, the worst in the majors. A loss would’ve left them with the poorest winning percentage in March/April in team history.
“It’s pretty amazing you go through a whole month without winning two in a row until the very end,” manager John Gibbons said. “In a lot of ways, that’s hard to do.”
Toronto lost Sanchez, the AL ERA leader last year, after just one inning because of a split fingernail. He was activated off the 10-day disabled list before the game when a blister on his middle finger healed. While on the DL, Sanchez underwent a procedure to remove part of the troublesome fingernail.
“I looked down at it very early and there was blood everywhere,” Sanchez said. “It was just get through the inning and hopefully I can push through and make sure it’s not worse.”
Six Toronto relievers combined to limit the Rays to one run in eight innings. Ryan Tepera pitched a career-high 3 1/3 innings, Aaron Loup worked two innings, Dominic Leone and Smith each got two outs and J.P. Howell (1-1) got one out. Roberto Osuna finished for his third save.
“If you ask anybody, you’d rather face the arms we faced today than facing Sanchez for seven or eight innings,” Rays first baseman Logan Morrison said.
“Tepera, I thought, threw really well for them. That was huge. He spotted pretty much every pitch he threw. There was nothing over the middle,” he said.
The Rays managed only four hits, all singles, against the parade of relievers.
“The guys they combined, they were outstanding,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “They kept us off balance. They did a tremendous job.”
The Blue Jays chased Chris Archer in the eighth and won it against Alex Colome (0-2).
Archer allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings.
“It was good but not good enough to win,” Archer said.
Jose Bautista glared at the mound after Archer threw behind him in the first. Plate umpire Jim Wolf warned both dugouts.
“I was just trying to go inside and the ball got away from me a little bit,” Archer said.
Gibbons said he would be “disappointed” if Archer was not disciplined, citing the four-game suspension Boston’s Matt Barnes recently received for throwing behind Baltimore’s Manny Machado.
Rays outfielder Steven Souza left Saturday’s game in the seventh inning after being hit on the left hand by a pitch from reliever Joe Biagini. Souza did not play Sunday.
Tampa Bay broke a scoreless tie in the eighth when Morrison scored on Daniel Robertson’s bunt.
Darwin Barney drew a walk from Archer in the bottom half and moved up on a groundout. Alex Colome relieved and Bautista tied it with an RBI double off the left field wall.
Kendrys Morales was intentionally walked and Justin Smoak struck out before Martin hit a tiebreaking single just inside the right field foul line. Ezequiel Carrera followed with an infield single, making it 3-1.
LONG TIME COMING
Howell was the winning pitcher for the first time since April 14, 2016, when he beat Arizona while pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Rays are 3-10 on the road. Only Kansas City (2-11) had a worse mark entering play Sunday.
Marcus Stroman’s sister, Sabria Abdat, threw out the first pitch on the same day fans received Stroman replica jerseys.
Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki has yet to test his sore right hamstring by running and does not expect to return from the 10-day DL before May 8.
Rays: RHP Jake Odorizzi (1-1, 4.15) has recovered from a strained left hamstring and is expected to be activated off the 10-day DL to start at Miami on Monday. He’s 2-1 with a 4.29 ERA in four career games against the Marlins, but hasn’t allowed a run in either of the past two. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-1, 4.71) starts for Miami.
Blue Jays: RHP Marco Estrada (0-1, 2.70) starts the opener of a three-game series against the New York Yankees. Estrada was 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA in four starts against the Yankees last season. RHP Luis Severino (2-1, 3.00) starts for New York.