ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay continued its climb back toward the top of the American League East on Friday night as Jose Lobaton's walk-off triple sent the Rays to a 5-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.
With the victory, the Rays are now one game behind the Red Sox for the division lead. Tampa Bay has won three straight on the heels of a six-game losing skid, the club's longest since the start of the 2011 season. The Rays also have won 17 of their last 21 home games.
On Friday night, before a home crowd of 15,433, Tampa Bay engineered a quick and decisive ninth-inning rally to pull ahead of Toronto. Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar worked a one-out walk against Blue Jays left-hander Aaron Loup, setting the stage for Lobaton. The catcher lined the first pitch he saw from Loup down the line into the right-field corner, allowing Escobar to score the winning run from first base.
Jeremy Hellickson recorded his first quality start since July 26 by allowing three runs over six innings -- a welcome sign for the Rays right-hander after three straight short, subpar performances. And Tampa Bay's lineup provided enough support against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who previously had given the Rays nothing but trouble at Tropicana Field.
The Blue Jays took a 2-1 lead in the fifth, when Jose Reyes scored on Edwin Encarnacion's single to left. They added another run in the sixth when Matt Joyce couldn't reel in catcher Josh Thole's fly ball to right, sending the ball rolling into foul territory long enough for Thole to reach third base. He scored on Anthony Gose's chopper up the middle, giving Toronto a 3-1 lead.
Tampa Bay pulled within one run in the sixth, when Joyce mashed his 15th homer on the 11th pitch of the at-bat against Dickey.
The Rays finally took the lead in the seventh. Escobar tied the game at 3-3 on an RBI groundout, then Sam Fuld laced an RBI single to left to score the go-ahead run.
The Blue Jays struck first.
Designated hitter Adam Lind drove in Maicer Izturis with a single to right field in the first inning. Izturis had been hit by a pitch by Hellickson and advanced to second on Encarnacion's single to left.
After being kept off the bases for two innings, the Rays answered in the third. Escobar led off with a triple to the wall and scored on Jose Lobaton's single to center.
NOTES: The Blue Jays placed IF Munenori Kawasaki on the paternity list and activated LHP J.A. Happ, who will start Saturday, from the bereavement list. Toronto manager John Gibbons said Kawasaki is likely to miss three games. ... Rays OF Desmond Jennings (fractured left middle finger) hit in the batting cage for the first time Friday and should be activated off the 15-day disabled list when eligible on Monday. ... Rays DH Luke Scott was out of the lineup for the second straight game because of back spasms. ... RHP Jesse Crain, acquired by the Rays before the July 31 trade deadline, played catch and made throws from 105 feet on Friday. He hopes to begin throwing from 120 feet soon. ... Gibbons said RHP Esmil Rogers and LHP Mark Buehrle will start Tuesday's doubleheader against the New York Yankees, with Rogers taking the opener and Buehrle the night game. They will be followed by Dickey on Wednesday and Happ on Thursday, with RHP Todd Redmond set to start Friday's series opener against the Houston Astros. ... In honor of the 25th anniversary of the classic baseball movie Bull Durham, the mascots of the Rays' Triple-A affiliate Durham Bulls were in attendance on Friday night.