ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Even in a down year, the Toronto Blue Jays are as capable of going deep as any team in baseball. They showed that off Wednesday night.
Kevin Pillar hit Toronto’s sixth home run of the game in the eighth inning, lifting the Blue Jays over the Tampa Bay Rays 7-6.
”It would have been nice to hit some homers with runners on base but that’s just the way it happens,” said Steve Pearce, who hit one of three homers in the second inning. ”Tonight was just a typical Rays-Jays matchup.”
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Pillar snapped a 6-6 tie with a homer off Tommy Hunter (2-5) to help the Blue Jays end a four-game losing streak. It was Pillar’s 13th homer of the season.
Kevin Keirmaier hit two home runs and scored three times for the Rays, who came back from 5-0 down to the tie it before losing for the ninth time in 12 games.
”Unfortunately I left a ball up, and that’s the end of it,” said Hunter, who has given up home runs in four of his last six appearances.
Ryan Tepera (7-1) got the win and Roberto Osuna got the final four outs for his 33rd save.
Josh Donaldson’s 22nd home run – and his 13th in 24 games – got the Blue Jays off to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Ryan Goins, Raffy Lopez and Pearce added solo shots off starter Austin Pruitt in the second, putting Toronto up 5-0. Lopez’ homer was the first of his career. Toronto entered Wednesday ranked 13th in the majors with 168 homers after finishing among the top four teams each of the past four seasons.
Keirmaier’s ninth home run came with a man on in the third, and Steven Souza Jr.’s 27th homer cut the lead to 5-3 in the fourth.
After Justin Smoak’s 34th home run stretched it to 6-3 in the fifth, Kiermaier hit his second homer of the game. RBI singles by Brad Miller in the sixth and Evan Longoria in the seventh tied it at 6, but the Rays had two runners on with one out and failed to score again.
”It would have been nice to get another run and take the lead there,” said Kiermaier, who has hit safely in all five games since his return from a hip fracture. ”No moral victories, especially in August and September. We need to win these kind of games.”
Pruitt gave up five runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Toronto starter Marcus Stroman, who had given up only one home run in his 10 previous starts, gave up five runs and eight hits, including three homers, in 5 1/3 innings.
”Our offense is extremely powerful when we’re clicking on all cylinders,” Stroman said. ”I have the utmost confidence in every single one of those guys 1-through-9, especially when I’m out there.”
The combined nine home runs tied a Rays franchise record.
On a night when Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred showed up and urged Tampa Bay to speed up the process of building a new stadium for the Rays, the attendance was 8,264, the lowest for a Rays home game since 2006.
Blue Jays: Stroman and LHP J.A. Happ will make their next starts on six days of rest because of the addition of Tom Koehler to the rotation.
Rays: RHP Alex Cobb will come off the disabled list Thursday to make his first start since Aug. 5. ”If having 2 1/2 weeks off freshened him up, that’s fine. We’ll take that,” manager Kevin Cash said. ”I think we’ll all benefit, especially Alex.”
Koehler, acquired from the Miami Marlins on Saturday, will make his first start for the Blue Jays on Thursday in the series finale. It will be the Rays’ final game before a nine-game road trip. Happ (6-9, 3.90) will start for Toronto.
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