The win moved the Rays' record to 4-1 on their road stretch, with a late-afternoon contest on the horizon Wednesday before they return to St. Petersburg for an off-day Thursday. The Rays are now 24-21 on the season, and they improved to 10-13 on the road.
Tampa Bay appeared to be in the midst of another blown lead when Toronto mounted a comeback in the eighth.
The Blue Jays had already pushed across one run to cut the lead to 4-2. Then Joel Peralta got Adam Lind to roll over a one-out ground ball that could have turned into a double-play had Ryan Roberts not booted the chance. That was when Rays manager Joe Maddon looked to the bullpen and summoned Rodney to the mound to face J.P. Arencibia.
No doubt Rays fans were wondering if Maddon understood the significance of the old saying that history repeats itself. And this history was not that long ago. On May 6 at Tropicana Field, Arencibia wrecked a Rays win with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth off Rodney to give the Blue Jays an 8-7 decision.
"Different circumstances," Maddon said. "Rodney had thrown a lot of pitches at the time Arencibia got that hit. Fernando is a better option to put the ball on the ground there to get a double play. That's what it came down to. Joel's a fly-ball pitcher, even though he'd gotten the ground ball that we kind of messed up prior to that. ... If you look at all the options available to you at that particular moment, I thought it was the best option."
Rodney needed just one pitch to create new history.
The hard-throwing right-hander delivered a 98-mph, two-seam fastball that Arencibia grounded to Roberts. This time Roberts came through, snatching the ball and flipping to shortstop Yunel Escobar, who made a successful relay to first to end the threat.
"Yes, it was a good chance to bring me into the game, and to face [Arencibia]," Rodney said. "Let him know the same guy, make the same pitch maybe, more location, get the groundball and get out of the inning."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons did not have a problem with Arencibia's swinging at the first pitch.
"The closer's coming in, I think he hit a strike; he just hit it right at the guy," Gibbons said. "That wasn't an at-bat to probably judge that off of, but we were chasing out of the zone a lot tonight."
Rodney returned to pitch the ninth, but it was hardly a clean inning.
Rodney struck out Brett Lawrie to start the inning. Colby Rasmus followed with a ground-rule double and moved to third on a groundout. One out later, Rasmus scored on a wild pitch with Munenori Kawasaki batting. Rodney then walked Kawasaki to bring Melky Cabrera to the plate representing the winning run. Rodney struck him out looking at an 86-mph change-up.
With his work done, Rodney fired one of his trademark arrows at Rogers Centre's covered roof, then spread his arms wide. He explained that people would find a hole in the roof for Wednesday's game thanks to his marksmanship.
Tampa Bay got some early offense, building a 4-0 lead after three innings.
Evan Longoria doubled off Ramon Ortiz to open the Rays' second. After moving to third on a groundout, he scored when Luke Scott nubbed a grounder to third. Kelly Johnson followed with his eighth home run of the season to put the Rays up, 2-0.
After robbing Lind of extra bases with a running catch toward the wall for the first out in the bottom of the second, Desmond Jennings homered to lead off the top of the third. Scott singled home Longoria with two outs to push the Rays' lead to 4-0.
Alex Cobb gave the Rays his seventh quality start of the season, holding the Blue Jays to one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings to pick up his fifth win of the season.
Cobb noted that he did not have his best stuff Tuesday night, which he said left him with only one option: battle.
"Make sure to just keep attacking, and you try to limit the walks and stuff like that to keep you out of the big inning," Cobb said. "I wouldn't say it's completely different, you throw your approach out the window. It's just a little adjustment; you have to attack guys and realize that you're not going to be striking guys out, you're gotta make them put the ball in play early."
Cobb is now 5-2 and enjoying a season not so different from Matt Moore's, according to Maddon, even though Moore is 8-0.
"It's hard to differentiate, actually," Maddon said. "If you look at the number of innings he's sucked up and how well he has pitched and the numbers he's put up, it's really, really close to Matty. Matty's record indicates better, but if you look under the hood a little bit, it's pretty close."