TORONTO -- The Blue Jays received a taste of first place in the American League East late last week and now they want to get back there as quickly as possible.
Toronto snapped a mini two-game losing streak with a 7-5 victory over the Rays on Monday night at Rogers Centre. The victory pulled the Blue Jays within two percentage points of the Orioles for first place in the division after Baltimore fell to Oakland, 3-2.
Second baseman Devon Travis went 4-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and the go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the seventh. Edwin Encarnacion added his 31st home run of the season, his 299th career homer, with a solo shot to left in the first inning while Jose Bautista added a pair of hits and three RBIs.
"Those were two pretty good pitches to start the at-bat and the last pitch he made was pretty good, too," Travis said about his go-ahead at-bat. "Thankfully I was able to fight it off and get it up the middle and extend that inning for [Bautista]. That was really the big hit of the inning, putting up those extra two runs."
Tampa Bay reliever Xavier Cedeno took the loss for Tampa Bay after he walked both batters he faced in the seventh inning. Right-hander Dylan Floro entered later and walked the bases loaded before he surrendered the single to Travis. Starter Jake Odorizzi did not factor into the decision after he allowed four runs over 5 1/3 innings.
Blue Jays reliever Joaquin Benoit earned the victory after he tossed a scoreless seventh inning. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey departed midway through the fifth with the score tied at 4 after he allowed four runs on six hits and three walks. Logan Forsythe hit a solo homer in the top of the ninth, but it was too little, too late for the Rays offense.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Odorizzi's streak gone: Odorizzi took a 20 2/3-innings scoreless streak into Monday night's start. But Travis lined a ball to right that Mikie Mahtook dove for and missed. By the time the ball got back to the infield, Travis stood on third with a leadoff triple. Bautista followed with a sacrifice fly, ending Odorizzi's streak. One out later, Encarnacion homered to put the Blue Jays up, 2-0.
"I wouldn't really say I had my best stuff tonight," said Odorizzi, who allowed eight hits and three walks. "...I had to battle a lot. They did a good job of working the counts, getting deep in the counts. I thought I made some good pitches when it really mattered. I was just a little bit off today, but from a salvaging point, things could have gotten much worse than they were. So I take that as a positive."
Two-out rally: Toronto had runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the fourth when Josh Donaldson appeared to end the inning with a swinging strikeout. The ball got away from catcher Bobby Wilson and allowed Donaldson to reach first base without a throw and the rally continued. Encarnacion then made the Rays pay for their mistake with a two-run single through the left side of the infield. The Blue Jays veteran slugger leads the Majors with 94 RBIs.
Escape artist: The Rays were on the verge of taking the lead in the top of the seventh but Benoit somehow managed to escape the jam. Tampa Bay had runners on second and third with nobody out before Benoit got Evan Longoria to strike out swinging. Brad Miller then hit a fly ball to right field but Forsythe made the curious decision to not tag on the play and test the arm of Bautista in right. That proved costly when Mahtook followed with a weak fly ball to center as the inning came to an end.
"I was just hoping he did what he did," Benoit said about his at-bat against Longoria. "He came out aggressive and swinging. I guess luck was on my side. All I threw him was changeups middle in, trying to shadow the ball, and it worked. After that, I just worked to keep the game tied in any way possible."
The reluctant first baseman: With Matt Duffy about ready to return, expect to see Miller at first often. In his first experience at the position, the converted shortstop came through with a rally-starting double in the fourth, and a two-run double in the fifth that tied the game at 4. More >
"It's a time to trust the process and not get fixated on the results because I've got a really good knuckleball right now. I feel great. I feel like I'm right on the edge of running off some really consistent starts here. -- Dickey, on his knuckleball.
"The big inning where we came up and had second and third with no outs and didn't get a run across. We've talked about that probably too many times this year. We've got to find a way to get the run in and we just did not." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash, on the seventh inning
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Encarnacion's solo homer marked the 17th consecutive solo home run the Blue Jays have hit dating back to July 26. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Toronto is the first team to hit 17 consecutive solo home runs since the Giants in 2011 (21 straight). The Blue Jays' previous record for consecutive solo shots was 14 set in 2000.
WHAT'S NEXT Rays:Drew Smyly (3-11, 5.14 ERA) makes his 22nd start on Tuesday at 7:07 p.m. EST against a Blue Jays team that he's struggled against this season, posting a 1-2 record with a 4.08 ERA in three starts. But the left-hander has pitched well in his past three outings, which were all quality starts. He pitched to a 2.37 ERA during that period.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (7-4, 2.92) will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series against the Rays on Tuesday at Rogers Centre. Estrada has been dealing with a sore back for the last month but he looked healthier during his most recent outing against the Astros. Estrada surrendered one run over seven innings in that start.