After hitting 139 homers last season, the Tampa Bay Rays could blow past that total before this year’s All-Star break.
Jose Siri, Randy Arozaena and Luke Raley homered, and the major league-leading Rays beat the slumping Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 on Monday night.
Tampa Bay (35-14) leads the major leagues with 94 home runs. The Rays opened a three-game lead over Baltimore in the AL East.
“The team that we have, we have a team that can run, that can field, that can hit,” Siri said through a translator. “It doesn’t matter what pitcher is up there, we feel confident in our ability to hit.”
After opener Trevor Kelley pitched two scoreless innings, Josh Fleming (1-0) allowed two runs and five hits over the next six as the Rays improved to 22-4 at home.
Tampa Bay is the ninth team since 1901 to win 22 of its first 26 home games.
The announced crowd at Tropicana Field was a season-low 8,857. Tampa Bay started the day averaging 18,045, 10th in the American League.
Toronto’s Chris Bassitt (5-3) pitched 28 consecutive scoreless inning before the Rays scored three times in the second. He allowed six runs – two earned – and seven hits over 6 1/3 innings.
Whit Merrifield and Daulton Varsho homered for the Blue Jays (25-23), who have lost seven of eight and dropped 9 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay.
Varsho hit a solo homer in the ninth against Zack Littell, who was replaced by Pete Fairbanks with two on and one out. Fairbanks allowed a two-out RBI single to pinch-hitter Brandon Belt and loaded the bases with a walk George Springer before getting a comebacker from Bo Bichette for his fifth save.
“It’s not a lack of effort,” Toronto manager John Schneider said. “These guys want it, and they’re battling. You look at the ninth inning, there’s no quit. That’s what gives you a lot of confidence going forward.”
Arozarena had a leadoff double in the second and scored with two outs when first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was charged with an error after mishandling second baseman Merrifield’s throw from behind the base on Christian Bethancourt’s grounder. Siri followed with a homer to centre.
“We take advantage of those little mistakes that the other team’s make,” Siri said.
Bassitt’s scoreless stretch was the second-longest season streak in franchise history, trailing Roger Clemens’ 33 innings in 1998. Dave Steib had a 34-inning run in 1988-89.
Guerrero got his second error after dropping a flip from Bassitt on a hard-hit ball by Wander Franco that the first baseman blocked. Guerrero stayed in the game after Franco stepped on his foot, which was on the base.
Isaac Paredes’ two-out RBI single later in the third made it 4-0.
Merrifield cut the deficit to 4-2 on a fourth-inning, two-run drive.
Arozarena went deep in the sixth, and Raley added his shot one inning later.
Toronto CF Kevin Kiermaier went 0 for3 in his first regular season game at Tropicana Field as a visiting player after spending 10 years with the Rays.
“I’ve got a lot of different emotions going on,” Kiermaier said. “This is the place that was home for me for so many years. Making the drive over here today like I have hundreds of times before there’s a lot of nostalgia.”
There was a video tribute for the popular Kiermaier after the first inning. He threw out Franco at the plate on Brandon Lowe’s fifth-inning fly ball.
Blue Jays: INF Santiago Espinal (right hamstring inflammation) went on the 10-day injured list. … LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu and reliever Chad Green will have bullpen sessions Tuesday. Both are coming off Tommy John surgery and are expected back this season.
Rays: Manager Kevin Cash said RHP Tyler Glasnow (left oblique) could make his season debut Saturday. … LHP Jake Diekman was placed on the paternity list.
Toronto RHP José Berríos (3-4) and Rays RHP Taj Bradley (3-0) are Tuesday night’s starters.
This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.