ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Ricky Romero and his Toronto teammates thoroughly enjoyed a big inning against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Jose Bautista hit his major league-leading 43rd homer during a 10-run sixth inning and the Blue Jays beat Tampa Bay 13-5 on Tuesday night.
“You love that,” said Romero, who pitched into the eighth inning for his 11th win. “You wish you could see that every night. We’ve taken a lot of whippings from those guys, so it’s always good when we get to do it to them.”
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Tampa Bay lost for only the fifth time in 17 games but fell a game behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East. The Rays and Yankees, who beat Oakland 9-3, had been tied atop the division for the previous eight days.
Bautista capped the sixth-inning outburst with a three-run shot off reliever Lance Cormier that put the Blue Jays up 11-3. It was the most runs scored in one inning by Toronto since an 11-run sixth on July 25, 2007, at Minnesota.
“We have a tough time with those guys,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “Anytime we can score that many runs off that team it’s always nice. It turned out to be what I call ‘a coaches and managers night,’ when they can sit back and kind of relax a little bit.”
Bautista also had a broken-bat, run-scoring single — giving him 103 RBIs this season — during a two-run eighth that extended the cushion to 13-3. He was hit on the upper left thigh by a pitch in the first of two plate appearances during the sixth.
“It hurt,” said Bautista, who still had a red spot after the game where the ball struck him. “I didn’t think much of it. We got a pretty good rally going there. We got the win and that’s all that matters.”
Romero (11-8) gave up five runs, three hits and five walks in 7 1-3 innings for the Blue Jays, who can stop a stretch of 10 straight series defeats at Tampa Bay with a win on Wednesday night.
“They can really strike quick,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s what they do. That’s who they are.”
Jeff Niemann (10-5) struggled in his second consecutive start since returning from a strained right shoulder, giving up seven runs and seven hits in five-plus innings. The Tampa Bay right-hander has allowed 17 runs over 8 2-3 innings in his past two outings.
Neimann allowed only two hits though five innings before Toronto started the sixth with five hits and a hit by pitch. DeWayne Wise had an RBI single, Vernon Wells hit a two-run double, and Adam Lind and John Buck had consecutive RBI doubles as the Blue Jays took a 6-3 lead and ended Niemann’s night.
“I’m still not sure what happened,” Niemann said. “I felt great early and all of a sudden I couldn’t get anybody out.”
Cormier entered and gave up Aaron Hill’s two-run homer that made it 8-3.
Romero held the Rays hitless until there were two outs in the fifth, when Ben Zobrist hit an RBI single and Dan Johnson drove in a pair with a double to put Tampa Bay ahead 3-1.
John McDonald put the Blue Jays up 1-0 in the third on his second homer in the last three games.
Romero allowed two baserunners through four innings — walks to Zobrist and B.J. Upton — and both were erased on double plays. The left-hander got early defensive help when Wise made a diving catch in right on Upton’s drive leading off the first.
Reid Brignac had a two-run single in the eighth for Tampa Bay.
Notes: Toronto has 201 homers this season. … Rays reliever Grant Balfour (ribs) could pitch in a simulated game Wednesday. … Gaston said the Blue Jays got Bautista’s home run ball, which helped him reach 100 RBIs for the first time, back from the fan who caught it.