Homers propel Rays to victory over Blue Jays

Homers propel Rays to victory over Blue Jays

Homers propel Rays to victory over Blue Jays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Tuesday night, the Rays played a game unfamiliar to the tenants of Tropicana Field including lots of hitting, poor defense and shaky starting pitching.

Fortunately for the Rays, the end result came wrapped in an 8-5 win over the Blue Jays with 12,307 in attendance. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and moved the team to 26-18 on the season, two games behind the first-place Orioles.

"It was not our game," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was not our game and that's really got to stop. We keep talking about keeping our head above water, and we have been, but we're better than that, even with a couple of guys being hurt."

The Rays' 14-hit attack featured three home runs. Luke Scott hit a solo shot in the first, Carlos Pena added a three-run homer in the fourth and B.J. Upton hit a solo shot in the sixth.

"I just didn't make good pitches tonight," said Drew Hutchison, who started for the Blue Jays and surrendered the first two home runs. "Obviously struggled, never got into a rhythm, just didn't give us a chance to win tonight and put us down in too big of a hole to come back from."

Pena's blast felt like a drink of water in the middle of the desert. The Rays first baseman had not had a hit in his previous five games and he was hitting .116 with 27 strikeouts in May. Concerned about his slugger's struggles, Maddon inserted Pena into the leadoff spot in the hopes of freeing his mind. Pena's mind could not have looked any more free than while circling the bases after his home run landed on the restaurant roof 452 feet away in center field.

"Every time you drive the ball to center field -- that big part of the field -- you know you put a pretty good swing on the ball," Pena said. "It's very gratifying. The fact that we got three runs on that didn't hurt. That's why we hit, we love that feeling. We love when we square balls up, and it's always fun."

Maddon admired Pena's blast and hoped out loud for good things to come.

"That was prodigious, that was two home runs almost right there," Maddon said. "I'd like to see him really build off that. It's all about confidence. If we get his confidence going again, you're going to see a lot more of that."

Other notables on offense included newcomer Drew Sutton, who came to the Rays in a trade on Monday. He slapped an RBI double to right in the fourth and Chris Gimenez drove home two with a single and a fielder's choice.

Perhaps the most frustrating part for the Rays on Tuesday was Matt Moore's performance.

Moore started and looked overpowering for four innings before the rookie left-hander began struggling with the strike zone, even though the Rays held a 6-0 lead.

Moore walked Colby Rasmus to start the Blue Jays' fifth and, two outs later, he issued walks to Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar before Jose Bautista singled home two.

"It all started with Rasmus," said Moore, who threw just 58 pitches through the first four innings before throwing 40 in the fifth. "The first four innings I'm going right at everybody. If you can hit it, you can hit it. Then with Colby, he didn't even have to make his mind up for himself. The ball was out of the zone and before I know it, there's a runner on first and it was the same thing from then on."

Sean Rodriguez then threw wild to first base on Edwin Encarnacion's grounder, which allowed two to score. Right-fielder Ben Zobrist backed up first on the play and threw wild, giving him his first Major League error while playing the outfield.

Moore got lifted at that point, leaving him a third of an inning short of being eligible for the win.

"It's not optimal," said Maddon of Moore's self-destruction in the fifth. "I've been through development on many different levels. His stuff was really, really good again. I just think he started to speed up a little bit after we got the big lead. As opposed to just going out and attacking the strike zone. He will. He will be able to eventually do that. But again, I have a lot of patience for young left-handers with that kind of arm."

Burke Badenhop got the last out of the fifth. Wade Davis took care of the sixth and seventh innings to earn the win, Joel Peralta pitched the eighth and Fernando Rodney took care of the ninth to preserve the win and earn his 14th save in 14 opportunities.

While Tuesday night's win wasn't pretty, Maddon said he will "take 'em all."

"We talk about winning ugly, but in the end, they're all kind of beautiful, actually," Maddon said.

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