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Toronto at Tampa Bay

Scoreboard
Toronto (66-83)000000010190
Tampa Bay (81-70) «14210400x12160

Rays 12, Blue Jays 1

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay's suddenly potent bats are giving the Rays renewed hope for their playoff chase.

Ben Zobrist and Jose Molina homered in support of a strong pitching performance by James Shields, and the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 12-1 to pull within 4 games of the Oakland Athletics in the American League wild-card race on Friday night.

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"It was pretty promising today," slugger Evan Longoria said. "I saw a lot of spark and life we haven't seen in the dugout as of late. You hope it's not too little, too late."

The Rays won for only the fourth time in 11 games, but the three-game winning streak that has followed manager Joe Maddon's decision to shut down batting practice and allow players to arrive at the ballpark a little later has revived the possibility of finishing strong and making the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.

Maddon changed the pregame routine after his offense continued to sputter in losing Monday and Tuesday to begin a four-game series against Boston. After scoring 13 runs on Wednesday, the Rays used a six-run ninth to beat the Red Sox again Thursday and finished with 16 hits Friday.

"At some point, you've just got to say: `Hey, it ain't working this way. Just let me chill out a little bit and go out there and play a little,'" Maddon said. "I think for the most part, a lot of the guys are starting to find that more relaxed zone to play to in and hit in."

"I totally, absolutely believe we can do this. I firmly believe that," Maddon added. "Again, it's about a bunch of one-game winning streaks on our part. We're very capable. We have the pitching to do it, and I do believe guys are fresh. ... We have to keep playing, keep applying pressure to [teams] that are slightly above us."

Shields (15-9) limited the Blue Jays to six singles over seven shutout innings to improve to 7-2 over his past 10 starts. The right-hander struck out nine to reach 200 for the second straight year, and when he fanned J.P. Arencibia leading off the second inning, the Rays broke the AL record for strikeouts in a season.

Luke Scott drove in four runs with a pair of doubles for the Rays, who trail the first-place Yankees by 6 games in the AL East.

"We can't really look up too much," Longoria said. "But if we can continue to do what we did tonight, we should put ourselves in a good spot. But the bottom line is we've got to win."

Zobrist hit a solo homer in the first and Molina had a two-run shot in the second against Carlos Villanueva (7-6), who allowed seven runs and eight hits in 2 1/3 innings.

"I didn't let down at any moment. I tried to keep battling. ... But it was like, anything I threw up there they hit," Villanueva said.

"A big part of our success more recently is we're not expanding our strike zone," Maddon said. "If we can continue to not expand our strike zone and force the pitcher over the plate, I think we can continue this upsurge."

Rays pitchers began the night with 1,264 strikeouts, two shy of the 2001 Yankees. Shields struck out Brett Lawrie and Edwin Encarnacion in the first, then got Arencibia swinging on a 2-2 pitch to begin the second.

The major league record is 1,404, set by the Chicago Cubs in 2003. The Rays have 1,275 with 11 games remaining.

Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar remained out of the starting lineup despite being eligible to return after serving a three-game suspension for wearing eye-black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston. He entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning and singled off Brandon Gomes.

Yan Gomes followed with a double that drove in Toronto's only run.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Escobar, who served the penalty this week during a trio of losses to the Yankees, may be back in the lineup on Saturday.

"When we met earlier today it became increasing clear during that discussion that he needs another day to get back and be ready to play a major league game," Farrell said. "It's not so much staying in shape or baseball activity, it's just about how he's dealing with the fallout of what he did. He's remorseful for what took place, and as a result he needs another day to get things in line."

Villanueva won his first six decisions this season, but he's won once over his past 10 starts -- a 2-0 victory over Tampa Bay at home on Aug. 30. He dropped to 0-3 lifetime at Tropicana Field, where he's yielded five homers, 18 earned runs and 24 hits in 12 innings.

Notes

  • Rays batters also have struck out at a prolific pace this season. They fanned just five times Friday night, but have 1,230 with 11 games left. They are the first team in AL history to have at least 1,200 strikeouts on both offense and defense. The league record is 1,324 by the 2007 Devil Rays.
  • The Blue Jays traded C Yorvit Torrealba to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for a player to be named or cash.
  • Dating to 2007, Toronto has lost 16 consecutive road series against the Rays, who have won six of the seven games the teams have played at Tropicana Field this year.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher used a hockey stick to shoot the ceremonial first pitch from the mound across home plate.
 
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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Players of the Game
Tampa Bay

L. Scott
AB 4
R 2
H 2
HR 0
RBI 4
Tampa Bay

J. Shields
IP 7.0
H 6
ER 0
BB 1
K 9
 
Toronto Blue Jays
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Brett Lawrie, 3B3010010 .274
    Mike McCoy, 3B1000010 .176
Colby Rasmus, CF4120012 .228
Edwin Encarnacion, DH2010111 .281
   a- Yunel Escobar, PH-DH1010000 .252
Adam Lind, 1B3000003 .237
    Yan Gomes, 1B1011000 .186
J.P. Arencibia, C4000024 .223
Kelly Johnson, 2B4010024 .224
Rajai Davis, RF4010021 .241
Adeiny Hechavarria, SS4010002 .250
Anthony Gose, LF4000011 .210
Totals35191111  
a-singled for Encarnacion in the 8th
Batting
2B - Yan Gomes (4, Gomes)
RBI - Yan Gomes (11)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Hechavarria-Johnson-Lind
Toronto Blue Jays
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Carlos Villanueva (L,7-6) 2.1877202 3.88
Chad Beck 2.2311210 6.35
David Carpenter 1444110 8.04
Aaron Loup 1100010 3.08
Casey Janssen 1000020 2.61
WP - Carlos Villanueva (5)
Pitches-Strikes - Carlos Villanueva 60-34, Chad Beck 40-21, David Carpenter 30-18, Aaron Loup 16-9, Casey Janssen 9-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Carlos Villanueva 2-5, Chad Beck 4-2, David Carpenter 2-0, Aaron Loup 1-1
Batters Faced - Carlos Villanueva 17, Chad Beck 12, David Carpenter 8, Aaron Loup 4, Casey Janssen 3
Tampa Bay Rays
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Desmond Jennings, LF5000014 .251
    Elliot Johnson, SS0000000 .243
B.J. Upton, CF4110001 .250
    Rich Thompson, CF1000000 .091
Ben Zobrist, SS3221100 .268
   a- Ben Francisco, PH-LF1000000 .244
Evan Longoria, 3B4230001 .284
    Ryan Roberts, 2B1010000 .238
Matt Joyce, RF3101212 .247
Jeff Keppinger, 2B3231100 .327
    Reid Brignac, 3B1000000 .095
Luke Scott, DH4224112 .227
Carlos Pena, 1B5122012 .198
Jose Molina, C4123012 .210
    Stephen Vogt, C0000000 .000
Totals3912161255  
a-flied out for Zobrist in the 7th
Batting
2B - B.J. Upton (27, Beck), Evan Longoria (12, Carpenter), Ryan Roberts (18, Loup), Luke Scott 2 (21, Villanueva, Carpenter), Jose Molina (9, Beck)
3B - Carlos Pena (2, Villanueva)
HR - Ben Zobrist (18, Villanueva), Jose Molina (7, Villanueva)
RBI - Ben Zobrist (71), Matt Joyce (55), Jeff Keppinger (35), Luke Scott 4 (54), Carlos Pena 2 (57), Jose Molina 3 (29)
2-OUT RBI - Ben Zobrist (16), Jeff Keppinger (12)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Zobrist-Roberts-Pena
Tampa Bay Rays
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
James Shields (W,15-9) 7600190 3.65
Brandon Gomes 1311010 5.40
Dane De La Rosa 1000010 12.60
Pitches-Strikes - James Shields 105-72, Brandon Gomes 28-18, Dane De La Rosa 7-6
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - James Shields 5-6, Dane De La Rosa 1-1
Batters Faced - James Shields 27, Brandon Gomes 6, Dane De La Rosa 3
Game Information
Attendance - 14187
Game Time - 2:56
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Tony Randazzo, First Base - Todd Tichenor, Second Base - Bob Davidson, Third Base - Brian Gorman