Troy Tulowitzki looks sharp in return to lineup in Blue Jays win
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Troy Tulowitzki played as if a late-season injury is behind him.
Tulowitzki doubled and singled in his return to the Toronto lineup after missing three weeks with injuries, and the AL East champion Blue Jays rallied past the Tampa Bay Rays 8-4 Friday night.
"Big relief he’s back out there," Toronto center fielder Kevin Pillar said. "Doesn’t seem like he’s missed a beat."
Tulowitzki went 2 for 5 and scored a run. Earlier in the day, the All-Star shortstop homered and doubled twice in a simulated game against Toronto minor-league pitchers at Tropicana Field.
"It’s awesome," Tulowitzki said. "To be back out there on the field is always special."
Tulowitzki hadn’t played since Sept. 12, when he cracked his scapula and bruised muscles in his upper back after colliding with Pillar in the outfield during a game against the New York Yankees.
"I’m going to feel it," Tulowitzki said. "It’s going to be somewhat sore because of what happened. But it didn’t prevent me from playing. Overall it was a good day."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons plans to give Tulowitzki off Saturday night and then have him play in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Rays.
"He looked good to me," Gibbons said.
Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin homered for the Blue Jays, who are tied with Kansas City in the race for the AL’s best record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Mark Buehrle (15-7) gave up four runs and six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He is two innings away from reaching 200 for the 15th consecutive season.
It hasn’t been ruled out that Buehrle could pitch again Sunday.
Tampa Bay starter Erasmo Ramirez allowed four runs and 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings. Enny Romero (0-2) took the loss.
Pillar had an RBI double and Ryan Goins hit a two-run triple in a four-run sixth as Toronto went up 5-4.
Encarnacion hit his 38th homer, a solo shot, before Martin made it 8-4 with his two-run drive during the seventh.
Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson (41) and Jose Bautista (40) tied the team record — set by Jose Canseco (46), Carlos Delgado (38) and Shawn Green (35) in 1998 — for most homers by a trio in one season.
Mikie Mahtook hit a three-run homer off Buehrle to complete a four-run fifth that gave the Rays a 4-1 lead. The rookie has hit three of his eight career homers off the Toronto left-hander.
"It’s just one of those things where, I guess, I’m seeing it pretty well," Mahtook said.
Pillar also took an extra-base hit away in the seventh from Luke Maile with a full-extension diving catch.
Blue Jays: Tulowitzki also walked in six plate appearances of the simulated game against a pair of minor leaguers. AL Division Series Game 1 starter David Price also took part in the simulated game and got Tulowitzki on a called third strike and a flyball to center.
Rays: C Curt Casali, out since Aug. 26 with a strained left hamstring, will not play again this season.
Gibbons said the Blue Jays will probably know what the 25-man roster for the AL Division series will be after meetings Saturday. … Price will go 11 days between starts when he takes the mound in Game 1.
"It’s smart to rest him," Gibbons said.
Price (18-5) worked 220 1/3 innings this season.
Buehrle got his 102nd pickoff, which moved him within one of tying the all-time leader Andy Pettitte. … Rays CF Brandon Guyer tied a major league record by getting hit by a pitch three times. All were by Buehrle.
Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (13-8) and Rays RHP Chris Archer (12-13) are Saturday night’s scheduled starters.