KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP)—Eric Hinske apologized for booting a ground ball, then spent the rest of the night redeeming himself.
“Any time you make an error in the field, you want to make up for it,” the Tampa Bay first baseman said Tuesday night after driving in two runs and finishing a single shy of the cycle in the Rays’ 6-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at Disney World.
Hinske’s fielding error led to one of two unearned runs against right-hander James Shields in the second inning. But instead of brooding, he accepted responsibility and went to work with his bat.
He doubled in the bottom of the second and added a RBI triple off Jesse Litsch (2-1) in the fourth before leading off the sixth with his fifth homer of the season, a solo shot off reliever Jesse Carlson.
Hinske’s bid to hit for the cycle fell short when Scott Downs struck him out in the eighth.
“I’ll take three hits in a win any day of the week,” Hinske said, adding that the only time he’s ever hit for the cycle was in a minor league game in which he got the single in the 11th inning.
Rookie Evan Longoria had a solo homer—his second of the season—off Litsch in the second inning. Dioner Navarro (finger lacerations) returned from a stint on the 15-day disabled list to deliver two RBI singles against the Blue Jays’ starter.
Shields (2-1) allowed four runs and six hits over seven innings to win for the first time since beating Baltimore in Tampa Bay’s season opener. Two of Toronto’s run were unearned, and the right-hander struck out five and walked two.
The Rays, hoping to broaden fan support in the Orlando area, improved to 4-0 in regular-season games played about 90 miles east of Tropicana Field at Disney. They swept a three-game series from Texas in 2007, and will face the Blue Jays again here Wednesday and Thursday.
Hinske’s five homers are one shy of his total for all of last year when he was with Boston. It’s also the most he’s had in the opening month of a season.
“If you’re around him on a daily basis, what he’s doing does not surprise you,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “This guy has always been a good hitter. He just hasn’t had an opportunity over the last couple of years.”
“We talked about getting shut-down innings. We needed a couple of them, and he let them right back in,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “When you’re having trouble scoring runs, that’s huge.”
Last May’s home-away-from-home series against the Rangers drew crowds of 8,443, 8,839 and 9,635 to Disney’s Champion Stadium, the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves. Tuesday night’s game, going head-to-head against an Orlando Magic home playoff date, attracted 8,269.
The Blue Jays scored two second-inning runs off Shields without hitting the ball out of the infield.
The Rays starter walked the first two batters of the inning, then made matters worse when he and Hinske were charged with errors on a play that allowed Toronto to take a 1-0 lead. Scutaro drove in the Blue Jays’ second run when he grounded into a force play, then added a RBI single in the fourth.
The Rays countered with two in the bottom of the second off Litsch, then chased the former Tampa Bay bat boy with three runs in the fourth for a 5-3 lead. The big blow in the inning was Hinske’s RBI triple down the right field line.
Litsch, now 1-2 in four career starts against his former employers, allowed five runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings.
Tampa Bay DH Carlos Pena was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. … The Rays acquired OF Gabe Gross from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for minor league pitcher Josh Butler. … Blue Jays 3B Scott Rolen (broken finger), on a rehab assignment with Class A Dunedin, could rejoin the team during the current road trip. … Pena (right hamstring) was the DH for the third straight game. He might play in the field Wednesday. … Blue Jays RF Alex Rios was rested. … With Navarro back in the lineup, Tampa Bay designated C Mike DiFelice for assignment.