ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) The AL East champion Toronto Blue Jays need a win and some help to claim the AL’s best record and home field throughout the postseason.
Tim Beckham had a two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied to beat the Blue Jays 4-3 on Saturday night.
Edwin Encarnacion homered for the fourth consecutive game for the Blue Jays, who fell one game behind Kansas City heading into Sunday’s final day of the regular season. Toronto holds the tiebreaker.
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”We’ll go out and try and win our game,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. ”Let everything fall into place.”
Grady Sizemore had a leadoff double off Roberto Osuna (1-6), who later loaded the bases with two outs with two walks. Beckham won it with his liner to left.
John Jaso and Asdrubal Cabrera homered for the Rays. Alex Colome (8-5) worked the ninth to get the win.
Encarnacion put the Blue Jays up 3-1 with his 39th homer this season, a two-run shot off Brandon Gomes in the sixth.
Encarnacion, Jose Bautista (40) and Josh Donaldson (41) set a team record – breaking the mark set in 1998 by Jose Canseco (46), Carlos Delgado (38) and Shawn Green (35) – for most homers by three players in one season with 120.
”That’s what they do,” Gibbons said.
Marco Estrada allowed two runs, three hits and struck out nine in 6 2-3 innings. He had his stretch of 21 scoreless innings this season against Tampa Bay end five pitches in when Jaso hit a leadoff homer in the first.
Cabrera cut the Rays’ deficit to 3-2 with his seventh-inning shot.
The Blue Jays tied it at 1 on a third-inning RBI single by Bautista.
Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer gave up one run, five hits, one walk and had three strikeouts over five innings. He became the seventh pitcher since 1900 to strike out (252) more than 250 and not have a winning record (12-13) for the season.
Others to accomplish it are Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Ben Sheets and Ed Walsh.
”I was honest with (the trainers), told them how I felt, and we made a decision that there was no reason to continue to push it,” said Archer, who had a career-high 212 innings this season. ”I definitely gave the team all I had this season and tonight. No point, if I feel tired at all, to push it at this point.”
Blue Jays: SS Troy Tulowitzki, who returned Friday after missing three weeks with a cracked scapula and bruised upper back muscles, had a planned day off and will play Sunday.
Rays: RHP Alex Cobb played catch for the first time since having Tommy John surgery in May. ”Felt good,” said Cobb, who might return next August.
Scotty Bowman, who won an NHL-best nine Stanley Cups as a coach, was at the game. He spent time talking with Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and Gibbons during batting practice. Bowman is currently a senior adviser with the Chicago Blackhawks, and has been part of the team’s three Stanley Cups in the last six years.
The Blue Jays are 53-28 at home this season and could turn the extra home game in the postseason into a key advantage.
”For us, we’ve been so good at home,” Gibbons said. ”We’re a home-run hitting team and it’s a great place to hit.”
Blue Jays: LHP Mark Buehrle (15-7) may start Sunday on one day’s rest, which would give him a chance to pick up the two innings needed for a 15th consecutive season of 200 or more innings.
”We’ll see how Mark feels,” Gibbons said.
If Buehrle doesn’t make the start, RHP Drew Hutchison (13-5) will likely get the call.
Rays: LHP Matt Moore (2-4), coming back from Tommy John surgery last year, starts Sunday. He has allowed two runs or fewer in four of his last five starts.