Pillar’s late homer lifts Jays past Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Hit enough home runs, and even if they are solo shots, they will carry the Toronto Blue Jays to a streak-ending victory.
Toronto hit a season-high six home runs, five of them solo, including Kevin Pillar’s shot in the eighth inning that gave the Blue Jays a 7-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field.
“It was one of those games with a lot of home runs hit on both sides,” Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We got some key outs late that we had to have, especially after they came back and tied it. Big home run from Pillar. Nice win.”
The teams combined for nine home runs, matching the most in a Rays game.
Tampa Bay (62-66) came back from a 5-0 deficit to tie the score in the seventh, only to leave the bases loaded and see Toronto (60-66) snap a four-game losing streak.
Tampa Bay reliever Tommy Hunter (2-5) took the loss. Toronto’s Ryan Tepera (7-1) picked up the win despite allowing the tying run to score in the seventh. Roberto Osuna secured the final four outs for his 33rd save.
“Tommy’s had a tremendous year. You don’t run away from somebody that’s had as much success in our bullpen as Tommy’s had,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Two weeks ago, we were all clamoring that he’s the MVP of the bullpen. That hasn’t changed in a couple of outings.”
Tampa Bay got back in the game by scoring in five straight innings — two in the third, then a run in each inning from the fourth to the seventh.
The Rays tied the score in the seventh, starting with a walk to Kevin Kiermaier, who stole second and took third on a throwing error by catcher Raffy Lopez.
A second walk put runners at the corners for Evan Longoria, whose infield single deep to shortstop evened the score at 6. The Rays had two on and no outs with their 4-5-6 hitters up, but Tepera got out of the jam. He got two outs, walked the bases loaded and got Wilson Ramos to ground out to third.
Rays starter Austin Pruitt was in trouble from the start, giving up a double off the wall by Steve Pearce, then a two-run homer to Josh Donaldson.
“Looked like the velo (velocity) might have been down a little bit,” Cash said. “If we don’t keep the ball in the ballpark, we are not going to win.”
The Jays followed with three solo home runs in the second — Ryan Goins hit his sixth, Lopez his first and Pearce his 13th, for a 5-0 lead. Pruitt had as many home runs allowed (four) as outs, and he was done after 3 2/3 innings. He allowed five runs and seven hits.
The Rays started chipping into the lead in the third as Ramos singled and scored on Kiermaier’s two-run homer, his ninth of the season.
Toronto’s Justin Smoak countered with a solo shot in fifth — his 34th of the year — for a 6-3 lead. Kiermaier answered with his second home run of the night to cut the lead 6-4 in the fifth.
Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman allowed five runs and eight hits (three of them homers) in 5 1/3 innings.
“It was a battle for him tonight — I don’t think his ball was sinking like it normally does,” Gibbons said. “It was cutting more, and that’s where he ran into trouble.”
NOTES: LF Steve Pearce, DH Kendrys Morales and 2B Darwin Barney each had two hits for Toronto. Tampa Bay got three hits from CF Kevin Kiermaier and two apiece from RF Steven Souza Jr., LF Corey Dickerson and C Wilson Ramos. ... The Rays designated INF Trevor Plouffe for assignment and recalled RHP Andrew Kittredge from Triple-A Durham. Kittredge pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit relief out of the bullpen. Plouffe was batting .178 with two RBIs in 31 games and 73 at-bats with the Rays. The addition of Lucas Duda at the trade deadline lessened the need for help at first base. ... Tampa Bay’s announced attendance was 8,264, a season low at Tropicana Field.