Escobar starts, Jays get bounced by wild card-chasing Rays

Associated Press
9/23/2012 12:02:39 AM
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay's suddenly potent lineup is powering the Rays back into the playoff chase.

B.J. Upton and Jose Molina homered during a six-run fifth inning and the surging Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 11-5 on Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings also connected for the Rays, who moved within 3 1/2 games of Oakland for the second AL wild card. Tampa Bay has scored 43 runs during its winning streak.

"It seems like we've been having more fun," Longoria said. "That's probably the biggest thing. It's really all about the belief that you can score runs, and we didn't have that for a while. It seems like it's back now."

The Blue Jays have lost five in a row, including the first two of the weekend set against the Rays to make it 17 consecutive losing series at Tampa Bay -- two short of the AL record. The New York Yankees won 19 consecutive home series against the St. Louis Browns from 1946-51.

"I can only speak to the last two years," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "It's an outstanding pitching staff. We've been in some close games here late in games where they've hit a ball out of the ballpark or scored some runs late. They're a good team."

Adam Lind drove in three runs for Toronto, and Brett Lawrie and Rajai Davis had two hits apiece.

Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was back in the starting lineup two days after he served a three-game suspension for wearing eye-black displaying an anti-gay slur written in Spanish. He went 0 for 4.

After Ben Francisco doubled in a run and Ryan Roberts added an RBI single, Molina and Upton each hit a two-run shot off Brad Lincoln as the Rays went up 11-4 in the fifth.

"We have to have another one-game winning streak (Sunday)," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Anxiety lives in the future. You've got to stay in the present. You've got to focus on today, and that's what we've been doing."

Upton has 25 homers this season, including seven in his last 13 games.

Longoria put the Rays ahead 4-2 with a three-run homer in the second against Brandon Morrow (8-7), who gave up five runs and five hits in four innings.

Jennings tacked on a solo drive in the fourth for his fourth home run in 13 at-bats against Morrow.

Lind trimmed Tampa Bay's lead to 5-4 with a two-run triple in the fifth. The ball got past Jennings, who failed to make a sliding catch in left.

Toronto took a 2-0 lead in the first on Edwin Encarnacion's RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Lind off Matt Moore.

Moore, who had lost his four previous starts, was pulled by Maddon after allowing two runs and three hits over 2 2-3 innings. The rookie left-hander departed with two on and has lasted four innings or less in three consecutive starts.

"I really don't feel (fatigued)," Moore said. "That's definitely not the issue."

Burke Badenhop (3-2) replaced Moore and retired all four batters he faced.

Tampa Bay got on the board in the first when Francisco walked -- the Rays' third free pass of the inning -- with the bases loaded and two outs.

Toronto's Adeiny Hechavarria had an eighth-inning RBI single.

Escobar, who was out during a three-game series against the Yankees, had a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning of the Blue Jays' 12-1 loss to the Rays on Friday night.

"It's time to get back in there," Farrell said. "Whether he's completely over what has taken place, I would venture to say that he's not. These are the things that he has to deal with."

Escobar apologized and said he meant it to be a joke.

NOTES: The Rays (82-70) clinched their fifth consecutive winning season. ... Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said a key off-season goal will be to add depth to the Blue Jays' rotation. "We'll try and be aggressive," Anthopoulos said. ... Jennings reached five times on three hits and two walks. He scored four runs. ... Davis stole his 45th base this season in the third.

Ryan Roberts and Jose Molina  (Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images)


(Photo: J. Meric/Getty Images)
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