Rays 6, Blue Jays 5
Few people were certain whether B.J. Upton's sixth-inning drive landed fair or foul. Not even Upton himself knew for sure.
The next time up, he left little doubt.
After barely missing a home run earlier, Upton hit a three-run shot in the seventh that broke open the game and sent the Tampa Bay Rays past the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 on Saturday.
''He's got as much power as anybody, especially for being so skinny,'' Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach kidded. ''When he gets into a ball, it can be very impressive.''
Upton's 18th homer put the Rays ahead 6-2, and Tampa Bay held on despite a pair of late home runs by Toronto.
In Upton's previous at-bat, he led off with a long fly to left field that landed just a few feet foul. Upton and Rays manager Joe Maddon questioned the call with home plate umpire and crew chief Tim Tschida.
''(Tschida) said, 'I'll talk to the boys,' and I guess none of them were absolutely certain, so they did the right thing,'' Maddon said.
Upton wasn't positive where his drive ended up, either.
''It looked fair from where I was, although it hooked very hard late,'' he said. ''I don't think it hurt to check it out.''
After huddling near the mound, three umpires left the field to review the video. They returned two minutes later and confirmed the original call, leaving the score at 2-all.
Upton reached the painful way when Shawn Camp's next pitch hit him on the leg. Sean Rodriguez singled and Kelly Shoppach tried to bunt the runners along.
But Camp (1-3) fielded the ball and threw to Brett Lawrie for a forceout, and the third baseman's throw across the diamond completed a double play. The Blue Jays almost turned a triple play, too, but Rodriguez slid into third just ahead of the return throw. Elliot Johnson followed with a go-ahead single.
Upton connected the next inning against Jesse Litsch. The shot into the second deck in left field scored Sam Fuld and Evan Longoria after they both walked.
''In that situation I'm not trying to do too much, just take what he gives me,'' Upton said. ''He left something out over the plate for me and I got extended on it.''
Maddon was pleased with Upton's powerful shot.
''I congratulated him on keeping that ball fair,'' he said.
The Rays are an AL-best 19-9 since July 28, and haven't given up hopes of winning the wild card. The Rays are seven games behind the second-place Yankees in the AL East.
''I keep saying that we're very much in this race right now,'' Upton said. ''We've just got to continue to try and win series. That's all we can ask ourselves. Hopefully (New York and Boston) hit a little rut and we can gain some ground on them.''
Litsch, a converted starter who was working for the third time in four days, denied feeling the effects of fatigue.
''I left the one ball up that Upton hit,'' Litsch said.
Rodriguez and Johnson each had three hits for the Rays.
Jeff Niemann (9-5) won for the fifth time in six starts. He came in 0-2 with an 8.36 ERA in his last three matchups with Toronto, failing to work more than five innings in any of them.
Niemann reversed that trend, allowing three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out six.
The right-hander improved to 8-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 12 starts since returning from the disabled list on June 20 after missing 39 games with a strained lower back.
''Not great but good,'' Maddon said of Niemann. ''He got through it. He started out slowly but I thought he settled in pretty well. Then eventually, at the end there, you could see he got tired.''
J.P. Howell replaced Niemann after J.P. Arencibia's RBI grounder in the seventh, ending Tampa Bay's streak of 11 consecutive games in which its starter worked at least seven innings.
Rays left-hander Jake McGee gave up a leadoff homer to Eric Thames in the eighth, the ninth of the season for the rookie outfielder. McGee got two outs before Juan Cruz came on and surrendered a solo homer to Edwin Encarnacion, his 14th. Kelly Johnson followed with a walk but Brett Lawrie fouled out.
Joel Peralta finished for his second save in four chances.
NOTES: Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth (elbow) was unavailable but could pitch Sunday, Maddon said. ... Arencibia threw out three potential basestealers, getting Upton at second in the second, Rodriguez at third in the fourth and Johnson at second in the eighth. ... Rays 1B Casey Kotchman was scratched with flulike symptoms but came on as a defensive replacement in the seventh. ... Toronto OF Dewayne Wise made his debut in center after being claimed on waivers from Florida. Blue Jays OF Colby Rasmus (right wrist) was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to Aug. 24. ... Blue Jays manager John Farrell (pneumonia) missed his second straight game and remains day-to-day. Farrell came to his office and was checked by team doctors before returning home to rest. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu served as manager.