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McDonald hits two-run homer in 11th as Blue Jays down Rays

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The Canadian Press
4/23/2011 12:55:37 AM
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TORONTO -- John McDonald didn't start Friday's game, but he sure finished it.

McDonald hit his first career walkoff homer in the 11th inning Friday as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-4 at Rogers Centre.

He entered the game in the second inning after starting second baseman Jayson Nix injured his left knee on a hard slide by Sean Rodriguez that broke up a double play.

"I don't hit too many, so any time you do something to win a ballgame is fine," McDonald said. "Obviously, I was happy."

McDonald, not known for his power, allowed himself to gaze at the ball as it left the park.

"I kind of watched it a little bit," he admitted. "I was trying to talk to the ball to get it to go a little farther but it doesn't usually work."

Until McDonald's homer, the key offensive player for Toronto (9-10) had been Jose Bautista who fell a single short of becoming the third Blue Jay to hit for the cycle. He doubled, tripled and homered before walking in his final two plate appearances.

McDonald's first homer of the season made a winner of left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski (2-0), who retired his only batter and made a loser of Adam Russell (1-1) who faced two batters.

Slumping Juan Rivera greeted Russell's entry into the game with a one-out single up the middle and Chris Woodward ran for him. McDonald did the rest, hitting a 1-0 sinker over the left-field fence.

"I liked my fastball matchup against him," Russell said. "I just didn't get where I wanted it to go and I paid the price."

"I thought Adam was in pretty good shape right there, based on his workload," added Rays manager Joe Maddon. "But again I probably warmed him up too much tonight."

McDonald was 1-for-4 and is batting .300 for the season and has four RBIs. In Tuesday's 6-5 win over the Yankees, McDonald put down a safety squeeze to tie the game against Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

That is more the type of thing expected from McDonald. And even though his power has improved -- working last year with now retired manager Cito Gaston and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy -- big home runs aren't expected from him.

"I think what's happened over time is not only has he matured but it's work that he and had Murph and Cito did last year," manager John Farrell said. "Just simplifying his plan going in and being aggressive to the fastball. As he has looked for pitches and looked to drive some pitches he's capable mof what he did tonight."

Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson pitched seven innings and allowed three runs, six hits and three walks while striking out six. He stood to win until reliever Joel Peralta surrendered his lead in the eighth on a double by Edwin Encarnacion.

The Blue Jays , whose starting rotation has been struggling, got seven innings from left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes. Entering the game 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA, Reyes allowed six hits, a walk and four runs while striking out six to lower his ERA to 6.20.

B.J. Upton drove in the first two runs for Tampa Bay (9-11), the first on a sacrifice fly in the first that scored Sam Fuld who led off with a single, stole second and took third on a groundout.

In the third, Upton singled in Fuld who singled, advanced to second on a groundout and stole third.

The Jays got on the board in the first when Adam Lind singled to score Jose Bautista who doubled with two out.

Lind again tied it in the fourth with a double to centre that scored Bautista who led off with a broken-bat triple to right. Bautista's soft liner bounced past diving right-fielder Ben Zobrist.

The Rays took a 4-2 lead in the fifth. Kelly Shoppach led off with a single and was sacrificed to second by Elliot Johnson. Fuld tripled to right to produce one run and Johnny Damon doubled in the other.

Bautista's fifth homer of the season with two out in the bottom of the fifth pulled Toronto to within one run.

The Rays had a leadoff double by Damon in the eighth against Jason Frasor. Upton popped to second and former Blue Jay Felipe Lopez bounced back to the mound and Sean Rodriguez struck out to end the threat.

Bautista came to the plate to lead off the eighth with a chance to join Kelly Gruber (1989) and Jeff Frye (2001) as the only Blue Jays to hit for the cycle, but right-hander Peralta walked him on four pitches.

Bautista took second on Lind's groundout to first and he scored the tying run on Encarnacion's double to right centre. Travis Snider was walked intentionally with two out but Rivera bounced out to third.

Notes: Attendance at Rogers Centre was 23,192. ...Right-hander Brandon Morrow, who started the season on the disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow, makes his first start of the season for Toronto on Saturday. Left-hander David Price will start for Tampa. ...The Mets returned infielder Brad Emaus to the Blue Jays after claiming him in the Rule 5 draft last December. Toronto then traded Emaus to Colorado for right-hander Chris Malone, 27, who has been pitching at Double-A Tulsa, and a player to be named or cash.

John McDonald  (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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