Rays bounce back to beat Blue Jays 10-4

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After making a habit early on this season of letting leads turn into losses, the Tampa Bay Rays finally built up an early advantage and wouldn't let it go.
The Rays bounced back from two disappointing losses to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night with a 10-4 win at Tropicana Field, scoring early and piling on the runs behind lefty starter Matt Moore.
The Rays (15-18) led 7-0 on Monday and 4-1 on Tuesday but wound up losing both games as their bullpen couldn't hold down the Blue Jays (13-22) late in either game.
But Tampa Bay scored early against Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero (0-2, 12.46 ERA), got into Toronto's bullpen in the first inning and didn't let up even after establishing a comfortable lead.
"The last couple nights have been difficult," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Tonight, we were not going to be denied. A lot of credit to the entire group. They were fantastic."
Moore (6-0, 2.14 ERA) pulled into a tie for the major league lead with six wins -- and the Rays improved to 7-0 with him on the mound -- but Wednesday night belonged to the Rays' offense.
Tampa Bay's Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria each went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer, a double and a walk to lead the Rays' 13-hit offensive attack. The first five hitters in the Rays' lineup combined to hit 10-for-19 and scored all of Tampa Bay's runs.
"I think more important than that was just getting a win," Johnson said. "Just getting a win was very important. Tough last two days [but] I think that we've played well in general."
Wednesday wasn't Moore's sharpest outing, as he allowed two runs but needed 104 pitches to get through five innings.
Still, Moore made his biggest pitches of the night when he had to. He got himself into a jam in the fifth inning, loading the bases with a four-run lead, but struck out Toronto second baseman Mark DeRosa to get out of trouble.
He fell behind in the first inning by serving up Edwin Encarnacion's 10th homer of the season. That gave Romero a two-run lead to work with, but he quickly let it go to waste, giving up three bases-loaded hits in the first inning.
In all, Romero allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while recording only one out in the first inning, the shortest start of his career.
Wednesday was Romero's second big-league start of the season, as he was demoted to Class A Dunedin at the end of spring training to work on his mechanics.
He surrendered three runs over four innings in his 2013 debut, and while he couldn't take the next step forward Wednesday, he refused to see it as a step backward.
"Not at all," Romero said. "A lot of people forget, I'm a competitor and I work hard. I've put so much effort and so much work into everything that I've done. I don't see it as a step backwards. The statistics don't show that, but you hold your head high and continue to work."
Reliever Edgar Gonzalez escaped a bases-loaded jam by recording two quick outs to end the first inning, but the Rays eventually got to him as well.
Tampa Bay tacked on another run in the second, when Johnson doubled and scored on Ben Zobrist's single to left field, and two more in the fourth on Longoria's eighth home run of the season.
It got even more out of hand in the sixth inning, when the Rays scored four runs on Johnson's two-run shot, an RBI double by James Loney and Luke Scott's sacrifice fly.
"I thought we were still in the game there if we could shut them down," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Gonzalez came in and did a tremendous job for us. He kept us in it. But it exploded in the sixth, and that's what took us out of it."
Moore, meanwhile, admitted it wasn't a "pretty" outing for him because he was fighting to find a release point and couldn't consistently locate his fastball. That caused him to run up his pitch count in a hurry and force the Rays to turn to their shaky bullpen for 12 outs.
But after allowing nine earned runs over seven innings in the previous two games, after turning sure-fire wins into heartbreaking losses, the relief corps delivered. Jamey Wright gave up two runs in 1 2/3 innings and Cesar Ramos pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to seal the win.
"We expect to win those games, there's no question. We're starting to do everything well," Maddon said. "We're hitting well now. We're going to start pitching better because we are really good at pitching. ... You're going to see the best bullpen in the American League by the end of the season. The defense has been wonderful.
"I have so much faith in our guys and our ability to really get on a nice run and stay on top eventually, which we will."
NOTES: The victory was Maddon's 600th with the Rays. He had to watch the final four innings from the clubhouse, however, as he was ejected by home-plate umpire Scott Barry for arguing a foul call in the top of the sixth inning, the first manager in Rays history to be ejected from consecutive games. ... Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, who was hit in the head by a line drive Tuesday night, was placed on the 15-day disabled list but did not know how long he will be sidelined. He was discharged from a local hospital early Wednesday and met with the media at Tropicana Field before the game. Happ said he has a skull fracture behind his ear, a head contusion and a left ear laceration but not a concussion. The greatest obstacle facing Happ might be his sprained right knee, which he tweaked as he fell to the ground Tuesday night. Happ will likely remain in the Tampa area until he's cleared to fly, but said he feels fortunate to be as healthy as he is after such a "scary" moment. "I'm not sure I'm completely in the clear, but it looks from everything -- the CT scans of the brain, neck and spine and everything -- it all looks pretty good," Happ said. "I don't think there's a ton of concern. Obviously if the symptoms change, I need to let them know." ... Desmond Jennings, whose liner hit the left side of Happ's face, went out of his way to talk to Happ in person and wished him well in his recovery. ... Maddon continued to express confidence in left-handed reliever Jake McGee, whose ERA climbed to 11.25 on Tuesday night, attributing his struggles to his confidence and not his ability. ... Tampa Bay became one of three teams since records are available to have its starters pitch five-plus innings in each of their first 33 games, joining the 1981 Pirates (first 45 games) and 1972 Dodgers (33). ... Thursday night's series finale at Tropicana Field will feature both of last year's Cy Young Award winners as David Price (1-3, 6.25) faces off with Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (2-5, 5.36).

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