ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Gabe Gross loosened up in the tunnel leading to the Toronto dugout, waiting for his chance to get into the game.
When manager John Gibbons finally called on him, the late-inning defensive replacement came through in a big way.
The one-time Auburn quarterback bailed Toronto out of one last jam by throwing a runner out at the plate to end the 10th inning, and John McDonald snapped an 11th-inning tie with an infield hit to help the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3-1 Tuesday night.
“Gibby told me that if we took the lead that I was going in, so I’d been up in the tunnel throwing into a net,” Gross said. “When I turned it loose, I knew I had made a good throw and just hoped that it got there in time.”
Gibbons inserted Gross in left field with runners at first and third and one out, but didn’t take credit for the idea.
Instead, bench coach Ernie Whitt and third base coach Brian Butterfield suggested the move.
“I signaled. They keep my toes,” Gibbons said. “I’ll put it that way.”
Huckaby did a good job of blocking Eric Munson’s path to the plate and made the tag.
“Gabe’s got a good release, and he’s as accurate as anybody you’ll see,” Gibbons said. “It’s his old quarterback days, I think. He’s throwing that post pattern over the middle.”
Aaron Hill, who tied the game at 1 with a sixth-inning RBI single, led off the 11th with a single off Doug Waechter (3-6). Huckaby’s sacrifice bunt and Frank Menechino’s grounder moved Hill to third before McDonald beat out a high chopper up the middle to drive in the go-ahead run.
Television replays showed McDonald touched the bag just as the ball arrived from shortstop Lugo. Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella stormed out of the dugout and argued the call by first base umpire Ed Rupuano to no avail.
“I knew it was close, but he looked out to me,” Piniella said. “The umpire saw it differently.”
Roy Halladay, trying to join Chicago’s Jon Garland as the AL’s only 12-game winners, allowed one run and seven hits in nine innings. He struck out seven, but his only walk in his past five starts led to Tampa Bay’s lone run in the first inning.
“I thought the pitching was great on both sides,” Gibbons said.
Lugo drew the first walk off Halladay in 33 innings and stole second before moving to third on Aubrey Huff’s infield hit. He scored when Jorge Cantu hit a grounder back to the mound, and Halladay failed to check the runner at third before throwing to first base for the out.
Devil Rays starter Scott Kazmir made the 1-0 lead stand until the sixth, despite walking three batters to load the bases in the second and giving up a one-out single to Hill and walking Gregg Zaun to put himself into a potential bind in the fourth.
The 21-year-old left-hander got out of the bases-loaded jam by getting McDonald to hit into an inning-ending double play, then escaped in the fourth when Menechino flied to right and catcher Toby Hall picked Hill off second base.
Toronto finally broke through in the sixth when Vernon Wells singled for his second hit off Kazmir and later scored on Hill’s RBI single.
Waechter replaced Kazmir, who allowed one run and six hits in 6 1-3 innings, and bailed the Devil Rays out of trouble by striking out Johnson and getting Alex Rios to ground out to end the threat.
Halladay has pitched at least six innings in all 17 of his starts. The first inning walk to Lugo was the right-hander’s first since June 3, when he walked two during a 6-2 victory at Oakland. … Lugo’s first-inning steal was his 21st. He and Crawford, who has 24, began the night as the only major league teammates with at least 20 apiece.