TORONTO -- The Tampa Bay Rays came into Rogers Centre and played the role of spoiler on Tuesday night, using a pair of long balls and some ninth-inning insurance to earn a 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays.
Alexei Ramirez hit a three-run blast in the fifth off Toronto starter Marcus Stroman, while Steven Souza Jr. added a solo shot in the seventh to power the Rays' offense and hand the Blue Jays a critical loss in their postseason chase.
The Blue Jays remained two games behind the Red Sox for first place in the American League East, after Boston lost to Baltimore, and they fell back into a tie with the Orioles for the top AL Wild Card spot.
Rays starter Drew Smyly improved to 4-0 lifetime at Rogers Centre, pitching 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball. Smyly's only blemish was a two-run home run to Russell Martin in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"Exciting win," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "That's the kind of atmosphere we've been talking about. It's a good experience for myself, for everybody that's involved there, because that place got pretty loud there in the seventh inning. We had guys we called up that really came through right there. That was great to see."
Stroman took the loss after allowing three earned runs over six innings of work. The 25-year-old right-hander battled command of his sinker all night, walking four batters for the first time since June 26.
"My stuff feels great," Stroman said. "But we're at the point in September where we need to be getting wins, so it's frustrating. Wash it and get to the next one, but at the end of the day, we have to start winning games here. The whole morale of the team is confident, we just have to go out there and do it."
Tampa Bay added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth on a Logan Forsythe force out and a run-scoring wild pitch. The victory was the Rays' 10th of the season against the Blue Jays and gives Tampa Bay the season series for the eighth time in nine years.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Ramirez's first Rays homer: The Rays should easily break the team's single-season record of 199 home runs this season. What's been disheartening about the homers is the fact they entered the game with 123 solo shots. Well, team home run No. 197 brought a different storyline, when Ramirez homered with two aboard for his first dinger in a Rays uniform. Souza gave Tampa Bay 198 on the season.
"I was just looking for a pitch to hit in the zone," said Ramirez through the Rays' team interpreter. "He was having a pretty good night against us. And sure enough, I was able to find one and connect." More >
Missed opportunity: The Blue Jays pieced together a two-out rally in the seventh but came up empty. With Kevin Pillar on first, Devon Travis extended his hitting streak to a season-high 10 games and Jose Bautista walked to load the bases for Encarnacion. But Farquhar shut the door by striking him out swinging with a 94-mph fastball.
"We had a couple shots at it, but we just couldn't get that big blow," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. More >
Doubled up:Kevin Kiermaier's aggressiveness pays dividends most times he puts it on display, but from time to time he pays for that style of play. He drew a leadoff walk to start the Rays' fourth then took off running on a pitch that Evan Longoria lined to right. Blue Jays right fielder Ezequiel Carrera caught Longoria's drive then spun and threw to first before Kiermaier could race back to complete the 9-3 double play. Kiermaier didn't stop running, though. After hitting a leadoff single in the eighth, he stole second with one out, then stole third with two outs.
New life: Martin brought the quiet Rogers Centre crowd back to life with his home run into the second deck that cut the Rays' lead to 3-2. According to Statcast™, Martin's 18th homer of the season traveled a projected 387 feet from home plate and left the bat at 107 mph. The long ball also ended the night for Smyly.
"I was really just looking for something up and out over the plate," Martin said. "I wasn't even necessarily looking for the breaking ball in that situation. He just threw a pitch, and it ended up in my swing path and stayed fair. At that point it felt pretty good and got us back in the ballgame."
"You gauge yourself against the teams you play in the division. For whatever reason, we've played some good games against them. Some tight ballgames back and forth. That's a trend we need to continue throughout the rest of the division." -- Cash, on the Rays' 10-8 season record against the Blue Jays
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• With 38,338 fans in attendance, the Blue Jays surpassed the three million mark for the sixth time in franchise history.
• When Martin homered off Smyly, he further ran up the home run total surrendered by the Rays left-hander this season to 31. That's 13 more than his career high of 18, which he accrued in 2014 while pitching for Detroit and Tampa Bay.
"I mean, it was a good pitch to hit," Smyly said. "If he was [looking] curveball, it was a cookie for him. If not, those hitters are really good. They can make adjustments quick and get ready for it."
WHAT'S NEXT Rays:Alex Cobb (0-0, 4.09) will make his third start since returning from Tommy John surgery in Wednesday's 12:37 p.m. ET finale vs. the Blue Jays. The right-hander has had flashes of his old self, but he's eager to have an outing where he has good stuff from start to finish. Ironically, this will be Cobb's 84th Major League start, but just his second at Rogers Centre.
Blue Jays:Marco Estrada (8-8, 3.68) gets the ball in a rare weekday matinee at Rogers Centre. The finesse right-hander lasted a season-low 2 ⅓ innings his last time out against the Red Sox, allowing four runs -- three earned -- on six hits. Estrada has surrendered four runs or more in four of his last five starts.