|Tampa Bay (73-61) «||1||6||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||9||18||0|
TORONTO -- Heading into a critical stretch of games with playoff implications, the Tampa Bay Rays are looking like contenders again.
David Price pitched a solid 6 2/3 innings and Ben Francisco homered in his first start for Tampa Bay as the Rays won their second straight to salvage a series split against the Toronto Blue Jays with a 9-4 win on Sunday.
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The win capped a tough 3-4 road trip for the Rays that saw them drop several games by one run only to fall further behind the division-leading New York Yankees in the AL East.
"I'm really proud of the way we've handled all of these moments," manager Joe Maddon said. "I know we lost some really harsh games and it's easy to go away after those loses and we didn't go away."
Carlos Pena also homered as the Rays won their second straight and third in nine games, pulling within 3 ½ games of the Yankees, who begin a three-game series at Tampa Bay on Monday.
"This is going to be a race to the end," outfielder B.J. Upton said. "We still got our work cut out for us but I think we're in a good position."
After the Yankees, the Rays will host the Texas Rangers before a visit to the Baltimore Orioles -- two teams both in the playoff hunt.
"We have time to do this," Maddon said. "I know we believe that we can do this."
Price (17-5) became the AL's top winner, with the Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver set to try for his 17th win later in the day.
Price gave up two runs, six hits and four walks while striking out five in a rebound game after a rare bad outing in Texas, where he was tagged by the Rangers for six runs and 10 hits.
The All-Star lefty is 9-1 in his last 14 starts overall and improved to 12-2 in his career against Toronto.
Price credited the Rays' offense for making it easy for him to get back on track.
"They've done a good job all year hitting for me, especially early in the game, it makes it a lot easier for me to go out there and try and pound the strike zone," he said. "The offense did a great job of putting up a lot of runs."
Blue Jays ace Ricky Romero (8-13) lost his 12th straight decision. He allowed a run in the first inning, then faced seven batters in the second and all of them reached base.
The Rays got to Romero with six runs in the big second, starting when Francisco -- acquired in a trade with Houston on Friday -- hit a solo shot over the left-field wall.
Upton's routine fly ball became a single when right fielder Moises Sierra lost the ball in the sun and let it drop. With the bases loaded, Ben Zobrist hit a two-run single that ended Romero's day. An RBI grounder by Jeff Keppinger put the Rays ahead 7-0.
"Going through something like this, I would never wish upon anyone," Romero said. "It's tough. I've had advice from a lot of people, even from opponents, the guy who pitched against me today and their all-star third baseman, a lot of guys on other teams.
"[They say] `keep going, keep moving forward, you can't dwell on the past. It's going to turn around."'
Pena sent the first pitch he saw in the third over the center-field wall for his 17th homer.
Tampa Bay did more damage in the fourth when Evan Longoria hit a ground-rule double, Keppinger singled and Francisco hit an RBI double.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh and Lind had an RBI single that finished Price.
Encarnacion hit his 37th homer, a two-run drive, in the ninth.
|Desmond Jennings goes 3 for 4 to help the Rays win their second straight and salvage a series split with the Blue Jays. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Desmond Jennings, LF||4||2||3||1||0||0||0||.254|
|Sam Fuld, CF||2||0||1||0||0||0||1||.306|
|B.J. Upton, CF||3||1||1||0||0||1||1||.249|
|Elliot Johnson, 3B||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.246|
|Ben Zobrist, SS||4||0||2||2||0||0||1||.268|
|Rich Thompson, LF||2||0||1||0||0||0||1||.105|
|Evan Longoria, 3B||4||1||2||1||0||0||2||.287|
|Reid Brignac, SS||1||0||0||0||0||1||2||.111|
|Jeff Keppinger, DH||3||0||1||1||0||0||1||.331|
|a- Luke Scott, PH-DH||2||0||0||0||0||1||0||.223|
|Ben Francisco, RF||4||1||2||2||1||1||1||.250|
|Carlos Pena, 1B||3||2||2||1||2||1||1||.191|
|Ryan Roberts, 2B||5||1||1||0||0||1||5||.241|
|Jose Molina, C||3||1||1||1||1||0||0||.206|
|Chris Gimenez, C||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||.203|
|a-struck out for Keppinger in the 6th|
|2B - Evan Longoria 2 (10, R. Romero, Jenkins), Ben Francisco (10, Jenkins), Ryan Roberts (16, R. Romero)|
|HR - Ben Francisco (3, R. Romero), Carlos Pena (17, Jenkins)|
|SH - B.J. Upton (4)|
|RBI - Desmond Jennings (40), Ben Zobrist 2 (56), Evan Longoria (35), Jeff Keppinger (31), Ben Francisco 2 (9), Carlos Pena (51), Jose Molina (23)|
|2-OUT RBI - Evan Longoria (17), Ben Francisco (4)|
|SB - Desmond Jennings (24, 3rd base off R. Romero/Torrealba)|
|Team LOB - 12|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|David Price (W,17-5)||6.2||6||2||2||4||5||0||2.54|
|HBP - Rasmus (by David Price)|
|Pitches-Strikes - David Price 105-66, Burke Badenhop 10-8, Cesar Ramos 14-11|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - David Price 6-9, Burke Badenhop 3-0, Cesar Ramos 2-1|
|Batters Faced - David Price 31, Burke Badenhop 4, Cesar Ramos 5|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|Rajai Davis, LF||4||1||0||0||1||2||0||.244|
|Colby Rasmus, CF||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||.231|
|Edwin Encarnacion, DH||4||1||1||3||0||1||1||.288|
|Adam Lind, 1B||4||0||1||1||1||1||1||.235|
|Yunel Escobar, SS||3||0||1||0||1||1||2||.253|
|Yorvit Torrealba, C||4||0||1||0||0||0||2||.244|
|Moises Sierra, RF||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.259|
|Mike McCoy, 2B||3||0||1||0||1||0||0||.184|
|Adeiny Hechavarria, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||0||5||.213|
|2B - Mike McCoy (1, Price)|
|HR - Edwin Encarnacion (37, Ramos)|
|SF - Edwin Encarnacion (6)|
|RBI - Edwin Encarnacion 3 (95), Adam Lind (32)|
|2-OUT RBI - Edwin Encarnacion 2 (30), Adam Lind (18)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|DP - Escobar-Lind|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|Ricky Romero (L,8-13)||1||8||7||7||1||0||1||5.85|
|IBB - Pena by Chad Jenkins|
|WP - Aaron Laffey (2)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Ricky Romero 43-26, Chad Jenkins 57-42, Aaron Laffey 53-32|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Ricky Romero 2-1, Chad Jenkins 6-6, Aaron Laffey 2-3|
|Batters Faced - Ricky Romero 12, Chad Jenkins 23, Aaron Laffey 13|
|Attendance - 18568|
|Game Time - 2:58|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Jim Joyce, First Base - Lance Barrett, Second Base - James Hoye, Third Base - Jim Reynolds|