With big ninth, Blue Jays back Stroman's gem

With big ninth, Blue Jays back Stroman's gem

ST. PETERSBURG -- Marcus Stroman had a career-high nine strikeouts over eight dominant innings, while Darwin Barney had a key pinch-hit double in a four-run ninth inning as the Blue Jays survived with a 5-1 victory over the Rays on Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

Stroman, who was celebrating his 25th birthday, enjoyed his best start of the year despite pitching with no margin for error during most of the outing. He scattered three hits and walked just two, with his only mistake coming in the sixth on a solo homer by Evan Longoria.

"It was awesome," Stroman said after the win. "More importantly, to get the win and get things going and get a series win. Hopefully we can carry this one into tomorrow. I felt like we had really good energy, especially late in the game. Just looking to get it going."

Stroman's excellent performance

Stroman celebrates in style with shutdown start

Tampa Bay and Toronto were tied at 1 going into the ninth when Barney led off the frame with a double to the corner in left field off left-hander Xavier Cedeno. Tampa Bay then proceeded to load the bases before the Blue Jays scored the go-ahead run on a grounder by Edwin Encarnacion. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki then put the game on ice with a three-run shot over the wall in left for his fifth homer.

Encarnacion's go-ahead RBI

Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi did not factor into the decision but he enjoyed one of his best starts of the season. His lone blemish came in the fourth when he surrendered a solo home run to Josh Donaldson. Odorizzi allowed just the one earned run while scattering two hits and striking out six over seven strong innings.

"Not a ton to say today," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "The bats were quiet. Their guy was good. Our guy I thought was outstanding, just really not a ton to say."

Better late than never: Toronto entered the ninth with a grand total of 11 hits in the series, but the bats finally came to life. Barney sparked the rally, and it was Tulowitzki who broke the game wide open. According to Statcast™, Tulowitzki's shot was projected to travel 401 feet and left his bat at 103 mph. The home run also snapped the shortstop's 0-for-16 skid, which included eight strikeouts.

Tulowitzki's three-run home run

"It's nice to come through for the team in a big spot," Tulowitzki said. "I feel good out there. Obviously things aren't going my way, but it's a long season and I'll just keep on grinding away."

Longo's power stroke: For the second time in as many days, Longoria delivered a game-tying home run, this one in the sixth off Stroman for his fifth homer of the season. Longoria had just one homer on May 1 last season and has not had as many as five on that date since 2013 when he had six. He finished with 32 that year. More >

Longoria's solo home run

Bringer of Rain: Toronto's offense continues to struggle, but Donaldson is more than living up to his end of the bargain. The reigning AL MVP gave the club an early 1-0 lead with a shot to left in the fourth. According to Statcast™, Donaldson's league-leading ninth homer of the year was projected to travel 401 feet and left his bat at 111 mph. It was Donaldson's second of the series.

Donaldson's solo home run

Quicker outs: Odorizzi entered Sunday's start bothered by the fact he had not gone deeper in his previous two starts. On April 26, he'd pitched five innings against the Orioles and on April 21, he'd lasted just four. Thus, going deeper into the game was a goal and in order to accomplish it, he surmised he needed to get quicker outs so his pitch count did not swell by the fifth. The right-hander accomplished his mission. Through six innings, he'd thrown just 85 pitches and he finished with 106 pitches in seven innings to earn a no-decision.

Odorizzi's excellent start

"When you have a game plan of quicker outs, it's easy to say, but to actually go and do it is actually a different story," Odorizzi said. "But with a team like them, they're an aggressive team. They're a well-disciplined team around the plate. So you have to be around the zone and make quality pitches in the zone. I thought I did that for the most part today."

"Barney has done a nice job for us. He hasn't played a whole heck of a lot, but he is an old pro. He knows how to sit around and get ready and all that. He is very valuable to us." -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, on Barney More >

Barney's pinch-hit double

"He's effective. He throws four or five quality pitches. He was on the corners today. Didn't make too many mistakes and we didn't hit when we had runners in scoring position." -- Longoria, on Stroman

Rays catcher Hank Conger threw out Ezequiel Carrera attempting to steal second base to account for the third out of the fifth. The play ended a streak of 48 consecutive successful steal attempts with Conger behind the plate, which dated back to May 29 when he played for the Astros.

Conger throws out Carrera

"For me, it was just trying to stay on track right there, that was a positive sign for me," Conger said. "Just stay on course and try to improve each and every day."

Toronto finished the series with 15 hits, the club's fewest total over a three-game set since Aug. 17-19, 2012, vs. the Rangers.

The Blue Jays became the first team in Major League history to be held to 15 hits or fewer and hit at least eight home runs over a three-game series.

Blue Jays: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (1-3, 6.75) will take the mound when the Blue Jays open a four-game series against the Rangers on Monday night at Rogers Centre. This will be the Rangers' first visit since last year's infamous Game 5 of the American League Division Series. Dickey faced Texas once in that series, but picked up a no decision after allowing one earned run over 4 2/3 innings.

Rays: Matt Moore (1-2, 3.66) will make his sixth start after pitching at least six innings in four straight starts, and eight of his last nine dating back to Sept. 17. The home run ball has taken a bite out of Moore this season as the four he's surrendered have accounted for nine of the 13 runs he's given up.

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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.