By Bill Chastain and J. Scott Butherus
ST. PETERSBURG -- Kendrys Morales made a mess of Rays pitching in an 8-4 Blue Jays win Friday night at Tropicana Field.
The opportunistic Blue Jays had nine hits and stranded just three runners. Morales led the way with a pair of home runs and a double, scoring three times and driving in five. The Rays had seven hits, and left 10 runners on base.
"It was a good day for me," Morales said through a translator. "I just made good contact and put the barrel on the ball, and it went far."
Morales' first homer came in the seventh with a man aboard against Rays starter Chris Archer, and tied the game at 3. He then broke a 4-4 tie with a three-run home run off Jumbo Diaz in the eighth. Justin Smoak followed with a home run off Justin Marks to stretch Toronto's lead to 8-4.
"It was a good comeback win," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "When you fall down 3-0 with [Archer] on the mound, it's pretty rare that we've been able to do that."
The Rays scored three in the fourth when Daniel Robertson and Derek Norris connected on back-to-back home runs off Blue Jays starter Francisco Liriano. The Rays then loaded the bases, setting the stage for Liriano to walk Steven Souza Jr. That forced home a run, giving the Rays a 3-0 lead and chasing Liriano after 3 2/3 innings.
"Obviously the ballgame got away from us," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Archer was really good early. We got some runs, but we left a lot of guys on base."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Morales goes deep: Morales entered the game with a .591 career average and two home runs against Archer. He'd already doubled and scored off Archer earlier in the game when he stepped to the plate in the seventh with a man aboard. Archer had allowed one run in six innings while striking out 11 to that point, but he fell behind 3-1 to Morales, who unloaded on a 95.5-mph fastball, depositing the baseball 409 feet from home plate in the right-field stands. The homer had a launch angle of 38 degrees, with an exit velocity of 109.5 mph, according to Statcast™.
Back-to-back: Robertson connected on a 2-0 pitch from Liriano in the fourth and launched a drive that hit the "B" ring catwalk at Tropicana Field, then ricocheted over the wall in the left-field corner. The rookie's third home run of the season put the Rays up 1-0. Norris followed with his second home run of the season on a 3-2 pitch that cleared the wall in center. According to Statcast™, Robertson's home run traveled 345 feet and had a 45-degree launch angle with a 105.4-mph exit velocity. Norris' blast went 423 feet and had a 23-degree launch angle, with a 103.6-mph exit velocity.
"[I was] feeling confident that I can get him out." -- Archer, on facing Morales in the seventh
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Rays are 9-10 in their last 19 games despite holding a lead in 18 of those 19 games.
A fly ball off the bat of Robertson hit the "B" ring catwalk of Tropicana Field and was ruled a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning. A review was initiated to determine if the ball struck the roof of the dome, but the call was upheld.
Gibbons challenged a call at first base in the bottom of the seventh after Tampa Bay's Corey Dickerson was called safe on a force play at first base. After a 44-second review, the call on the field was confirmed.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays:Marco Estrada will get the ball for the middle game of the series at Tropicana Field starting at 4:10 p.m. ET Saturday. He currently leads the team in strikeouts.
Rays:Jake Odorizzi will make his second start since returning from the disabled list. The right-hander got a no-decision in his first game back Monday in Miami when he allowed just two hits and a run in five innings of work. He should be allowed to pitch deeper into the game this time out.