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Toronto at Tampa Bay

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Toronto (80-78)200000000263
Tampa Bay (87-71) «20010003x660

Damon clutch late vs. Jays as Rays chase WC bid

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Johnny Damon found his power swing at the perfect time for Tampa Bay.

Damon hit a three-run homer Saturday night and the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 to move within 1½ games of Boston in the AL wild-card race.

"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.

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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.

Jose Bautista hit his major league-leading 43rd homer for the Blue Jays, who had won seven of 11. Ricky Romero (15-11) gave up six runs -- one earned -- and six hits over 7 2/3 innings.

"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.

Zobrist came home when Damon flared a ball to short center that dropped between second baseman Kelly Johnson and center fielder Colby Rasmus for a double.

"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."

Notes

  • The Rays have won 26 straight games when scoring five or more runs.
  • Toronto INF Brett Lawrie (broken right middle finger) will have his offseason program established a week after the season ends when he undergoes a follow-up examination.
  • Niemann gave up two hits and walked two during his 38-pitch inning.
  • Jays 1B Adam Lind missed his second straight game after returning home for the birth of his child.
  • Tampa Bay RHP Wade Davis (10-10) and Toronto LHP Brett Cecil (4-10) are scheduled to pitch in Sunday's series finale.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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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)
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
Tampa Bay

J. Damon
AB 3
R 1
H 3
HR 1
RBI 4
Toronto

J. Bautista
AB 3
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
 
Toronto Blue Jays
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Mike McCoy, SS4000010 .208
Eric Thames, LF3100110 .268
Jose Bautista, RF3122000 .305
Kelly Johnson, 2B4020001 .222
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B2000211 .275
Colby Rasmus, CF4010022 .230
David Cooper, 1B4000002 .190
J.P. Arencibia, C4010020 .222
Adam Loewen, DH3000030 .200
Totals31262310  
Batting
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
Fielding
DP - McCoy-Johnson-Cooper, Johnson-McCoy-Cooper
E - David Cooper (4, Dropped fly), Mike McCoy 2 (5, Throwing)
Toronto Blue Jays
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Ricky Romero (L,15-11) 7.2661252 2.92
Casey Janssen 0.1000000 2.33
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
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Desmond Jennings, LF3000011 .279
B.J. Upton, CF3210102 .240
Evan Longoria, 3B4100012 .240
Ben Zobrist, 2B4211002 .267
Johnny Damon, DH3134100 .262
Sean Rodriguez, SS4000012 .223
Casey Kotchman, 1B2000011 .307
Matt Joyce, RF3000012 .278
Jose Lobaton, C3010000 .121
Totals2966525  
Batting
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
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Desmond Jennings 1
Tampa Bay Rays
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jeff Niemann 1222201 4.06
Alex Torres (W,1-1) 5300150 3.38
Brandon Gomes (H,4) 1000020 3.09
Joel Peralta (H,19) 1100010 3.02
Kyle Farnsworth 1000020 2.28
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
Game Information
Attendance - 27773
Game Time - 2:34
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Ed Rapuano, First Base - Ed Hickox, Second Base - Mark Wegner, Third Base - Alfonso Marquez