ST. PETERSBURG -- The Blue Jays clubbed four solo home runs -- two by Michael Saunders -- in support of a stingy Aaron Sanchez on Friday night en route to a 6-1 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Saunders homered to center field off Drew Smyly with two outs in the third to put the Blue Jays up 1-0. Josh Donaldson added a solo home run off the C-Ring catwalk with two outs in the sixth to push the lead to 2-0. That was all the damage the Blue Jays could inflict against Smyly, but it was enough as he took his third loss of the season.
"I think they lead the MLB in first-pitch strikes, so I knew they were going to be aggressive," Sanchez said. "But when I have the ball on the ground like that, that's something you just have to tell yourself, 'Hey, stick with it, stick with it, stick with it.'
"That's kind of what I did all night. … I think this is one of those games we needed after coming off of a sweep at home to a pretty hot team, but it starts the road trip off nice."
The Blue Jays tacked on some insurance runs in the eighth when Saunders hit his second long ball of the game and Justin Smoak added a two-run single. Brad Miller homered in the eighth off Blue Jays reliever Drew Storen to account for the Rays' only run. Ryan Goins hit the Blue Jays' fourth home run in the ninth when he connected against Jhan Marinez.
"Obviously, not an ideal way to start a series," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "But it's two games in a row where we face really good pitching. Sanchez was obviously very tough. Drew Smyly threw the ball really well."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Saunders starts early: Saunders recorded the sixth multi-homer game of his career with his big night. According to Statcast™, his first home run was projected to travel 415 feet from home plate, while the second one was projected at 388 feet.
"I think I am just getting in hitter's counts, most importantly," Saunders said. "Against Smyly, he has a change in velocity a little bit, cutter, sinker. I got myself in some pretty good counts and put a good swing on it." More >
Smyly ties K mark: Smyly struck out eight, giving him 41 for the month of April and tying David Price's club record established in April 2014. Smyly had a 2-2 count against Donaldson in the sixth before the Blue Jays star homered. Lifted prior to the seventh, Smyly didn't get an opportunity to set a Rays record for the month. More >
Donaldson does it again: According to Statcast™, Donaldson's eighth homer of the year was projected to travel 445 feet from home plate and left his bat at 112 mph. It was the second time this year a home run has hit the catwalk at Tropicana Field, with the White Sox's Brett Lawrie also doing it on April 16.
Not to my pitcher: Cash was ejected in the top of the fifth after arguing with home-plate umpire Mark Ripperger. Smyly had just struck out Russell Martin and appeared to have something going with Ripperger. That's when Cash bolted out of the dugout to take the heat off his pitcher. The ejection was Cash's fourth as manager of the Rays and first this season. More >
"We're going to get going offensively. We just didn't tonight." -- Cash, on the Rays' offense
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Martin struck out in each of his first two at-bats, which made it nine strikeouts in a row dating back to April 23. The nine consecutive strikeouts by a position player fell one short of the Major League record, which was set by Rick Ankiel, who recorded 10 in 2013 with the Astros.
Saunders' homer ended an 11-inning scoreless streak by the Rays' bullpen, which had not allowed a run during the current homestand -- a nine-inning stretch -- and had not allowed a run since Saturday when Erasmo Ramirez surrendered a walk-off homer in the ninth to Brett Gardner in a 3-2 loss at Yankee Stadium.
The Rays' frustrations with runners in scoring position continued Friday night when they went 1-for-9. During the first four games of the homestand, the Rays are 2-for-26.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (3-0, 2.42) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Rays at 6:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. Happ is 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA in 10 career outings against Tampa Bay.
Rays:Chris Archer will try to build on the success he had Monday night against the Orioles. Given that success -- and the success he had using a changeup, look for him to again be active with the pitch to keep hitters off his fastball-slider combo. He struck out 12 Toronto batters in a five-inning Opening Day stint, but he took the loss.