TORONTO -- Kendrys Morales and Russell Martin had a flair for the dramatic Wednesday night as the Blue Jays beat the Rays, 7-6, to split their two-game series in Toronto.
With the game knotted at 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth, Martin took the second pitch he saw from Jose Alvarado, a 98.7 mph fastball, and drove it deep into the left-field bleachers for what turned out to be the game-winning home run.
"He threw me a fastball in the middle of the plate, and I put a good swing on it," Martin said. "After that first pitch, I thought it was going to be a tough at-bat."
Toronto's lead had looked secure entering the top half of that inning, until Logan Morrison's two-run shot brought them back within one. A Steven Souza Jr. walk and a Colby Rasmus single off Toronto reliever Joe Smith put runners on first and third, and Derek Norris followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game.
Francisco Liriano turned in his deepest start of the season for Toronto, throwing seven innings and allowing three runs, two earned. The left-hander struck out nine, just one shy of his season high, and managed to limit the damage while pitching in a handful of higher-leverage situations.
"He was dynamite," said manager John Gibbons after the game. "That was big for him. Of course, he was out with the injury, and now he's come back. Tonight was as crisp as we've seen him. It looked like the guy we picked up last year.
Tampa Bay starter Jake Odorizzi has typically enjoyed success against Toronto in his career, but the right-hander allowed five runs, three earned, over 4 1/3 innings, with three walks and four strikeouts, before being lifted. Those walks ran up his pitch count, and Morales' go-ahead home run came on his 99th and final pitch.
"It was just one of those games where I didn't have anything," Odorizzi said. "They happen from time to time throughout the year. There's really no explanation for why."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kendrys cranks it: Morales gave the Blue Jays the lead in the bottom of the fifth with a huge three-run home run, his 13th of the season. After a Jose Bautista RBI single brought Toronto within one, Morales turned on Odorizzi's pitch and sent it 465 feet into the second deck of Rogers Centre at a 109.1 mph exit velocity.
Morrison feeling right at home in Toronto: Morrison launched his 19th home run of the season, his second in two nights, to bring the Rays back within one run in the top of the eighth. After Smith entered and allowed a single to Evan Longoria to open the inning, Morrison sent his two-run shot to the opposite field. He now has homered four times against the Blue Jays this season, including April 28 and May 6, also in Toronto.
"When you give up a lead, and it's one of our pitchers who's been throwing the ball extremely well all year, Smitty, I felt like I picked him up right there. I felt like the team, at that moment, needed that."
-- Martin, on his home run after Smith had allowed three runs
"There's definitely a way better me than what I'm [showing] right now. I will be better, and I'll be better hopefully soon." -- Odorizzi
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to Statcast™, only 10 home runs in Major League Baseball have traveled farther than Morales' 465-footer this season. It was the farthest by a Toronto batter in 2017, surpassing Martin's 449-footer, and the fourth-farthest at Rogers Center in the Statcast™ era.
Ryan Goins attempted to move John Smith and Martin over with a bunt in the bottom of the sixth, but almost beat out a single when Rays catcher Norris bobbled the ball near home. Toronto challenged the play, looking at whether second baseman Taylor Featherston kept his foot on the bag, but the call was upheld and Goins was ruled out.
Rays: Tampa Bay opens a four-game series against the Tigers at Comerica Park on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Alex Cobb (5-5, 4.29 ERA) gets the start for the Rays against Justin Verlander (4-4, 4.68 ERA), who will be looking for his first win since May 20 against Texas.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Joe Biagini (1-5, 3.38 ERA) will open the Blue Jays' three-game series against the White Sox at home on Friday night. Biagini has held opposing hitters to a .554 OPS as a starter in 2017, and his ability to limit hard contact and force ground balls has allowed him to work seven innings in back-to-back starts.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.