Rays launch four homers to pummel Blue Jays

Rays launch four homers to pummel Blue Jays

Rays launch four homers to pummel Blue Jays
ST. PETERSBURG -- The fans at Tropicana Field probably wished they brought their ear plugs.

Of course, each time a Tampa Bay hitter knocks a home run, the sirens blare, and there was a lot of blaring Saturday night.

The Rays used four home runs to pace an 11-5 thrashing of the Blue Jays in the second game of a three-game set between the clubs. With its 82nd win on the year, Tampa Bay ensured itself a winning season for the fifth-straight year.

Desmond Jennings led the way, recording one of the home runs, two singles and a walk and scoring four runs on the day. B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Jose Molina all homered on the night as well.

The win was the fourth straight for the Rays, and the offense has been explosive in the stretch, scoring 43 total runs, a new club record for a four-game span.

"We know the importance of each at-bat for everyone," said Molina, who finished with a season-high three hits. "We're just trying to put the best at-bats we can up there and give us a chance to keep winning games. Everybody knows what the situation is here, and that's the concentration."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said the recent success is a result of better plate discipline.

"The at-bats have been so good, it's not just about the hits," Maddon said. "Laying off borderline pitches that are balls, getting into better counts, forcing the pitcher over the plate -- it's very simple stuff. Over the last four days, we've been doing that really, really well."

Earlier in the day, Oakland lost to New York, and with Tampa Bay's victory, the gap in the standings for the second Wild Card spot tightened to 3 1/2 games. Baltimore, which owns the first Wild Card slot, defeated Boston and holds a 5 1/2 game lead on Tampa Bay.

"We have to have another one-game winning streak [Sunday]," Maddon said. "1-0 for Saturday, I'm really looking forward to us being 1-0 for Sunday."

Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore didn't last long, tossing just 50 pitches in 2 2/3 innings, allowing a pair of runs on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts.

"He just didn't have it tonight," Maddon said. "Earlier in the season, you can be a little more patient, but you can't be as patient right now. I just did not see him fixing himself tonight."

It was the third straight start of four or fewer innings for the young lefty, raising questions about his level of fatigue, but he maintained it's not an issue.

"I couldn't complain about how I'm feeling right now," Moore said. "[Fatigue] is definitely not the issue ... You look at my pitch count and the situation of the game with our standing, where we are right now, is pretty tight right now. It goes without saying that we're gonna make some moves possibly early in the game like that when I don't have it early."

Six Rays pitchers ended up finishing the last 6 1/3 innings after Moore left, giving up three runs on seven hits with six punchouts.

Toronto got to Moore early, leading off the first with a walk and a double to put two in scoring position with no outs. Edwin Encarnacion hit a single to score the first run, and Adam Lind hit a sacrifice fly to bring in the second.

But in the bottom of the inning, Tampa Bay started to claw back. The Rays got one of their runs back when Ben Francisco drew a two-out walk on a full count with the bases loaded. Matt Joyce came to the plate next, but couldn't take advantage of the opportunity, flying out to left to end the frame.

Longoria gave the Rays the lead in the bottom of the second when he hit a 1-0 pitch high and deep in the air, hitting a lamp on the "C Ring" catwalk. As Tropicana Field ground rules state, it counted as a home run and put Tampa Bay up, 4-2.

"That might be the farthest I've seen hit in this building," Maddon said. "That ball left hot."

In the bottom of the fourth, Jennings delivered his own blast to left field, deep in the stands and just inside the foul pole for his 13th of the year, putting Tampa Bay up by three.

"I have to find a way to get [Jennings] out," Toronto starter Brandon Morrow said. "He's really been killing me. I think he must see it well or just have that good approach where he's not swinging at anything out of the zone."

Lind came through again for the Jays, this time in the top of the fifth when he hit a sharp rope to left field with two outs. Jennings attempted to make a sliding catch on the play, but it went under his glove, allowing Lind to earn two RBIs on a triple.

But Francisco was able to give Tampa Bay a little more breathing room in the bottom of the inning when he doubled in Jeff Keppinger, who also doubled to begin the frame. After Joyce grounded out to put two down for the Rays, Ryan Roberts singled in Keppinger for a 7-4 lead.

"I think they just had a really good approach at the plate tonight," Morrow said. "I can't remember a pitch out of the zone that they swung at, and I think they only swung at four off-speed pitches total, so that was a good approach that they really zoned in on the fastball."

Molina then broke the game open, driving a 3-1 offering from righty Brad Lincoln over the left-field fence, giving him home runs in two consecutive days. Two batters later, Upton hit his own two-run dinger to left, giving him 25 on the season, good for a new career high.

Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.