|Tampa Bay (87-71) «||2||0||0||1||0||0||0||3||x||6||6||0|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Johnny Damon found his power swing at the perfect time for Tampa Bay.
"I feel real good about our chances, and if we can somehow get to the playoffs with our pitching staff and our defense, we have a nice shot at winning," Damon said.
|More on Blue Jays at Rays|
Damon connected with two out in the eighth, giving the Rays a four-run lead. Damon's third hit of the game came after shortstop Mike McCoy mishandled Evan Longoria's grounder for an error and Ben Zobrist flied out for the second out in the inning.
"You give a team an extra out, a lot of times a crooked number is going to end up on the board and that was the case tonight," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
Damon has 2,720 hits, one away from tying Lou Gehrig for 57th place on the career list. The designated hitter is 5 for 7 with two homers and seven RBI in his last three games.
Rookie reliever Alex Torres (1-1) threw five shutout innings to earn his first big league win in his fourth game this season. The left-hander replaced Jeff Niemann to start the second and allowed three hits.
Damon also had a run-scoring double in the first as the Rays won for the second time in six games. Boston lost 9-1 at the Yankees earlier Saturday.
"We can't control what happens in the New York-Boston series ... We have to worry about what we can control, and hopefully this is a big pick-me-up," Damon said.
"It's disappointing," Romero said. "I don't want to be the reason they go the playoffs. We want to win every game here on out."
After Brandon Gomes and Joel Peralta worked scoreless innings, closer Kyle Farnsworth pitched a perfect ninth in a non-save situation. Farnsworth had been out since Sept. 11 due to a sore right elbow.
The eight scoreless innings by the Rays' bullpen set a team record for a single game.
"If you had told us at the beginning of spring training we'd be in this position right now, I think we'd all take it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Tampa Bay went ahead 3-2 in the fourth on Zobrist's solo homer. He has gone deep three times over his last seven games after going 39 games without a home run.
Bautista put the Blue Jays up 2-0 during the first when he lined a 3-2 pitch from Niemann into the left-field seats. Toronto failed to extend the lead later in the inning when David Cooper bounced out with runners on second and third.
Niemann had his scheduled start pushed back from Thursday to Saturday because of a sore upper back.
"There was a little bit of residual soreness but I was a little bit off and these are must-win games for us, so that's what happened," Niemann said.
A series of defensive blunders helped the Rays tie it at 2 in the bottom of the first. B.J. Upton singled one pitch after Cooper was charged with an error at first for misplaying a foul ball. Upton then scored when McCoy was given an error after making an errant throw to first on Zobrist's two-out grounder.
"That's miscommunication," Farrell said. "That's a ball that's got to be caught. In that situation, ideally, you'd like to see Colby take charge right there and record the out."
|Jays starter Ricky Romero looks away as Johnny Damon rounds the bases after hitting a three-run HR in the eighth for the Rays. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|Mike McCoy, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||0||.208|
|Eric Thames, LF||3||1||0||0||1||1||0||.268|
|Jose Bautista, RF||3||1||2||2||0||0||0||.305|
|Kelly Johnson, 2B||4||0||2||0||0||0||1||.222|
|Edwin Encarnacion, 3B||2||0||0||0||2||1||1||.275|
|Colby Rasmus, CF||4||0||1||0||0||2||2||.230|
|David Cooper, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||0||2||.190|
|J.P. Arencibia, C||4||0||1||0||0||2||0||.222|
|Adam Loewen, DH||3||0||0||0||0||3||0||.200|
|2B - Colby Rasmus (24, Niemann)|
|HR - Jose Bautista (43, Niemann)|
|RBI - Jose Bautista 2 (103)|
|CS - Kelly Johnson (6, 2nd base by Torres/Lobaton)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|DP - McCoy-Johnson-Cooper, Johnson-McCoy-Cooper|
|E - David Cooper (4, Dropped fly), Mike McCoy 2 (5, Throwing)|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|Ricky Romero (L,15-11)||7.2||6||6||1||2||5||2||2.92|
|HBP - Jennings (by Ricky Romero), Kotchman (by Ricky Romero)|
|WP - Ricky Romero (9)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Ricky Romero 113-62, Casey Janssen 4-3|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ricky Romero 12-5|
|Batters Faced - Ricky Romero 32, Casey Janssen 1|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Desmond Jennings, LF||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||.279|
|B.J. Upton, CF||3||2||1||0||1||0||2||.240|
|Evan Longoria, 3B||4||1||0||0||0||1||2||.240|
|Ben Zobrist, 2B||4||2||1||1||0||0||2||.267|
|Johnny Damon, DH||3||1||3||4||1||0||0||.262|
|Sean Rodriguez, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.223|
|Casey Kotchman, 1B||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||.307|
|Matt Joyce, RF||3||0||0||0||0||1||2||.278|
|Jose Lobaton, C||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||.121|
|2B - Johnny Damon (29, R. Romero)|
|HR - Ben Zobrist (18, R. Romero), Johnny Damon (16, R. Romero)|
|RBI - Ben Zobrist (88), Johnny Damon 4 (71)|
|2-OUT RBI - Johnny Damon 4 (21)|
|SB - B.J. Upton 2 (33, 2nd base off R. Romero/Arencibia, 2nd base off R. Romero/Arencibia), Johnny Damon (19, 2nd base off R. Romero/Arencibia)|
|CS - B.J. Upton (12, 2nd base by R. Romero/Arencibia)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|Outfield Assists - Desmond Jennings 1|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Alex Torres (W,1-1)||5||3||0||0||1||5||0||3.38|
|Brandon Gomes (H,4)||1||0||0||0||0||2||0||3.09|
|Joel Peralta (H,19)||1||1||0||0||0||1||0||3.02|
|IBB - Encarnacion by Alex Torres|
|HBP - J. Bautista (by Alex Torres)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Niemann 38-19, Alex Torres 71-43, Brandon Gomes 12-9, Joel Peralta 16-9, Kyle Farnsworth 17-11|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Niemann 1-2, Alex Torres 3-5, Brandon Gomes 1-0, Joel Peralta 1-1, Kyle Farnsworth 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Jeff Niemann 7, Alex Torres 18, Brandon Gomes 3, Joel Peralta 4, Kyle Farnsworth 3|
|Attendance - 27773|
|Game Time - 2:34|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Ed Rapuano, First Base - Ed Hickox, Second Base - Mark Wegner, Third Base - Alfonso Marquez|