Zobrist, Damon carry Rays to victory

Zobrist, Damon carry Rays to victory

Zobrist, Damon carry Rays to victory
TORONTO -- Tampa Bay's 6-4 win on Saturday came in two phases.

First was the pitching phase, which consisted of a pitching duel between David Price and Brandon Morrow that saw each of the aces carve up the opposing lineup accordingly.

After that came the "life in the American League East" portion of the program. For Rays fans, that one brought the most anxiety. Toronto mounted a furious comeback before coming away losers in front of 21,826 at Rogers Centre.

"Welcome to the American League East, ladies and gentlemen," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I anticipate games like this on a nightly basis. You're always looking for the laugher. You're always looking to get away with something. You're not. Every game we play in our division this year is going to resemble that game you saw the last two days."

By winning, the Rays snapped a two-game losing streak, moving to 10-11 on the season. They are now 9-3 since April 10.

Morrow made his first start of the season for the Blue Jays after being shut down during Spring Training with right elbow inflammation. He left the game after 93 pitches and 5 1/3 innings, with the score tied at two and a runner on second.

Save for a first-inning hiccup, Morrow had been just as dominating as the Rays remembered him from Aug. 8 of last year, when he struck out 17 and nearly no-hit them. Ten Rays struck out during Morrow's relatively short stint Saturday, making his exit a welcome relief to the Rays.

"Not too many people around the country know about [Morrow]," said Johnny Damon, who went extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a first-inning homer, and had three RBIs total on the afternoon. "But he's up there. He's not a comfortable day at the plate."

Damon's fourth homer of the season was nice, but Maddon felt like Damon's strikeout in advance of Morrow getting lifted to be equally critical to the win. Morrow used up seven pitches before finally retiring Damon in the sixth.

"John Damon's at-bat to get him out of the game was fantastic," Maddon said. "That at-bat was key."

Carlos Villanueva took over for Morrow, and he walked the first batter he faced, Matt Joyce, bringing Ben Zobrist to the plate. Batting left-handed, the switch-hitting Zobrist connected on a 1-1 pitch for his fourth home run of the season and a 5-2 lead.

Price put forth another stellar outing for the Rays while picking up his third win of the season, and running his career record against Toronto to 7-0 with a 2.30 ERA.

The red-hot Jose Bautista presented the only real trouble Price encountered on the afternoon. The Blue Jays slugger hit his sixth home run of the season in the first and added his seventh in the fourth to tie the game at 2.

"I was trying to look at the video and see what [Price] was doing inning to inning," Bautista said. "Obviously in the first inning, he had two outs with three pitches, I gave him a pitch and then I figured he was going to come with the fastball, and he got it in a good spot."

By the end of the afternoon, Bautista had reached base for the 10th consecutive time, with nine of those coming against the Rays.

"He's very reminiscent of Barry Bonds in 2002," said Maddon of Bautista. "In the World Series [against the Angels when Maddon was the Angels bench coach] where every time he swings the bat it looks like it's going over the wall.

"Tremendous plate discipline, very aggressive swing, it's an understatement to say he's locked in right now. He's just on a different planet."

Price did get some help from the defense, which turned in another top-shelf performance, complete with two double-plays and a diving catch by left-fielder Sam Fuld, which ended a threat in the seventh.

Tampa Bay took what appeared to be a safe 6-2 cushion into the ninth, but Toronto cobbled together three consecutive hits to chase Price.

"I feel like I beat two of those hitters and they got hits," said Price, who felt some frustration at not completing the game.

Kyle Farnsworth took over and immediately surrendered a base hit to Juan Rivera, which cut the lead to 6-4. Travis Snider then placed a sacrifice bunt to put the tying runs into scoring position with one out.

Several interesting things happened on the bunt play. Farnsworth came up favoring his left knee, which was the same problem he encountered during Spring Training. Fortunately for the Rays, Farnsworth was able to walk it off and continue. In addition, the call at first base that got Snider went the Rays' way.

"The replay shows otherwise, he was safe," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "It was not a good call."

John McDonald, who had hit a walk-off, two-run homer in the 11th inning Friday night, then grounded back to Farnsworth, who bare-handed the ball and threw to first for the second out. Mike McCoy grounded out to third to end the threat, and the game.

"I definitely wanted to finish that game," Price said. "But Joe made the right decision to bring [Farnsworth] in, he did a great job."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.