Barney's blast lifts Blue Jays over Rays

Barney’s blast lifts Blue Jays over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Bullpen day turned into a 2-1 win for Toronto on Sunday as five relievers combined to throw a three-hitter, and Darwin Barney hit an eighth-inning home run for the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

“The whole bullpen did a hell of a job,” said Jays manager John Gibbons, who turned to reliever Joe Biagini for his first career start and got four quality innings. “I thought (Biagini) was dominating ... for a guy that hadn’t done it in a while, he looked like he was just really dominating as a reliever and we stretched him out a little bit.”

The Blue Jays (11-20) took two of three games from the Rays, and beat Tampa Bay on a bullpen day for the second time in two weeks.

The Rays (16-17) couldn’t find any rhythm at the plate, getting only three singles as they rarely faced the same pitcher two at-bats in a row. The lack of offense spoiled a solid outing by Rays starter Alex Cobb (2-2), who gave up four hits in eight innings but still took the loss.

Barney, hitting out of the No. 9 spot in the batting order with five RBIs all year, crushed a 1-0 pitch to left field with one out in the eighth to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead against Cobb, who had needed only 75 pitches to get through the first seven innings.

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“We probably wouldn’t be talking too much about that pitch (to Barney), simply if we were able to get some runs across the board,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose team lost while giving up four hits or less for the first time since last May 29. “Alex Cobb was phenomenal. Commanding the baseball. The fastball was outstanding, the curveball was outstanding ... The offense was a little quiet.”

The Rays got a full-count walk to Steven Souza Jr. and a single from Colby Rasmus with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but closer Roberto Osuna struck out rookie Daniel Robertson to end the game.

Tampa Bay’s 2-3-4 hitters -- Brad Miller, Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison -- went a combined 0-for-12 with four strikeouts, but the Rays didn’t have much to work with offensively.

Cobb gave up a leadoff single to Kevin Pillar to open the game, then didn’t allow another hit until the sixth. Toronto had been held to four hits on Saturday in a 6-1 Rays win, and the strong pitching continued with Cobb, but the Rays’ bats weren’t the same Sunday.

“Any pitch in that situation is not a bad decision, it’s just the execution of it,” Cobb said of the home run in the eighth. “I wouldn’t throw it again because it was hit out of the park, but I wouldn’t change my decision of why I went to it.”

The Rays scored an unearned run in the third against Biagini, who came out of the bullpen for his first start and held the Rays to one run and two hits in four innings. Kevin Kiermaier reached on an error in the third, advanced on Jesus Sucre’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Alex Dickerson’s two-out single to right field for a 1-0 lead.

Toronto tied the score in the sixth as Pillar ripped a shot down the left-field line that went off Evan Longoria’s glove for a double. With two outs, Russell Martin hit an RBI single to left field to make it 1-1.

Biagini had to fill in as starter after the Blue Jays designated Mat Latos for assignment following his last start. Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera and Joe Smith combined for four innings of no-hit scoreless relief, and Osuna pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

“I should probably write it down in my diary and put some extra hearts and stars around today,” said Biagini, who will start again in five days as the Jays seek answers in their rotation.

The Blue Jays head home to start a nine-game homestand with three games against the Cleveland Indians. The Rays stay home for four games against the Kansas City Royals.

NOTES: Toronto is just the fifth playoff team from the prior season to open a season 10-20 or worse, and the first since the 1996 Red Sox, who also opened 10-20. ... Toronto led in 12 of its 20 losses, and no team has pulled that off since the 2010 Orioles, who had 12 blown leads in a 9-21 start. ... The Rays are halfway through a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, and part of a larger run of 35 games in 36 days. ... Saturday’s Rays win took only two hours and 42 minutes, the second-shortest game of their season and ending a run of nine straight games of at least three hours.