Pinch-hitter Guillermo Heredia highlighted a five-run eighth inning with a two-run homer and the Tampa Bay Rays took advantage of some sloppy Toronto defence early en route to an 8-4 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Heredia’s homer, off Toronto reliever Tim Mayza, gave the American League East-leading Rays (12-4) an 8-2 lead.
Kevin Kiermaier started the offensive flurry in the bat-around eighth with a run-scoring double. Pinch-hitter Mike Zunino brought home two more with a single.
Tampa had scored three unearned runs over the third and fourth innings after two Toronto errors.
Billy McKinney hit a two-run homer in the ninth to give Toronto (5-11) late life. Freddy Galvis also homered and drove in two runs.
Charlie Morton started for the Rays, allowing a run and four hits over 4 2/3 innings. Reliever Adam Kolarek (1-0) earned the win.
Marcus Stroman (0-3) lasted just four innings, allowing three hits and three runs – all unearned – with three walks and five strikeouts.
Toronto’s Thomas Pannone pitched three perfect innings in relief, including an immaculate fifth where he struck out all three batters on nine pitches.
But Toronto’s early errors helped hand their opponents the game.
Tampa tied it 1-1 after Lourdes Gurriel Jr. bounced a throw to first on the would-be final out of the third. Stroman walked the next batter and Brandon Lowe followed with an RBI single. Stroman threw 15 extra pitches before he could escape the inning – bringing his total to 69 through three – and Gurriel was replaced in the field by Alen Hanson to start the fourth.
The Rays attacked again an inning later with two runs following a throwing error by Stroman on a Kiermaier grounder. Austin Meadows drove in Kiermaier to give Tampa the lead and Yandy Diaz made it 3-1 with an RBI single.
Galvis cut into the deficit in the seventh, launching a Ryne Stanek pitch over the centre-field wall.
Galvis also drove in the game’s opening run in the first. He brought leadoff hitter Billy McKinney home from second with a single off Morton.
Randal Grichuk made a highlight-reel play in centre in the second. With a runner on second and two out, Grichuk robbed Willy Adames of an RBI and extra bases, sprinting to track down the hard-hit liner and leaping for the catch at the wall. Stroman threw his hands in the air when the play was made and emphatically high-fived his centre-fielder as they both jogged into the dugout.