ST. PETERSBURG -- Toronto salvaged a win -- and avoided a sweep -- by scoring on a ninth-inning wild pitch Sunday. It was hardly a thing of beauty. But none of the Blue Jays were complaining about the artistry of their 2-1 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
It was a satisfying win that completed an often-frustrating road trip.
"However you get [wins] in,'' Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I love this team. We've been battling. We needed this. We definitely needed this one.''
It allowed the Blue Jays to get a 4-4 split of their eight-game, seven-day road trip.
On the first offering to Blue Jays batter Anthony Alford, Rays closer Alex Colome unleashed a one-out wild pitch that bounced and rolled through the legs of catcher Wilson Ramos. Kevin Pillar, who led off the ninth with a double then advanced on a grounder, scored easily from third base to break a 1-1 tie.
"It's always good to win before we go back home,'' Pillar said. "We always talk about having a happy flight. We kind of saw this game as a game we really needed to win. I told [my teammates] it was a must-win. That's a little extreme here in May. But we needed a win to wrap up the road trip and be successful. The way we won it today is something to build on.''
Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna worked the ninth inning to earn his ninth save. He got Carlos Gomez, who had been 3-for-3 with a game-tying eighth-inning homer, on a game-ending grounder with the tying run on first base.
"Osuna is one of the best in the game,'' Gibbons said. "He's a pitcher, not a guy who comes in to blow you away. Gomez is hot, but [Osuna] does his thing and the good guys win.''
For a while, it looked like Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada was going to exorcise his personal demons against the Rays. But he received little support from his offense and no shutdown help from his bullpen. Estrada, who is 1-8 career against the Rays over 11 starts and is 0-3 at Tropicana Field, pitched six shutout innings and left with a 1-0 lead.
"That's a good lineup over there with the Rays and they put up some good at-bats, but I had a really good defense behind me,'' Estrada said. "They've had my number the last few years, but it's a new year and new lineup for them. The key for me was locating my pitches and I was able to do a good job of that today.''
Reliever Tyler Clippard held the Rays in check during the seventh. But in the eighth, Blue Jays reliever Dennis Tepera was greeted by Gomez's game-tying homer. After getting an out, Tepera walked C.J. Cron and pinch-runner Rob Refsnyder went to second on a balk. Gibbons argued the call and was immediately ejected by home-plate umpire Jeremie Rehak.
Matt Duffy followed with a single, sending Refsnyder to third, but Tepera buckled down for the final two outs, setting the stage for the Blue Jays' go-ahead ninth inning.
The Blue Jays opened the scoring in the fifth. Alford led off with a single, stole second and got to third on Luke Maile's sacrifice fly. Aledmys Diaz then hit a high chopper that was speared by leaping Rays first baseman Brad Miller, who shoveled to pitcher Chris Archer, covering on the play. Diaz was ruled safe -- and Alford scored on the RBI single -- but his left foot hit the outside of the first-base bag.
Diaz crumpled to the turf and left the game with what was diagnosed as a sprained left ankle. X-rays were negative, but Diaz will undergo an MRI and further examination.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the third inning, Rays center fielder Mallex Smith was at third base with two outs in a scoreless game. As Estrada began his windup, Smith broke for the plate and an attempted steal of home. Estrada maintained his composure and delivered an accurate throw to Maile, who easily tagged out Smith.
"He took off kind of early,'' Estrada said. "I looked over to third before I started moving. There was plenty of time for me to not panic. I'm just glad I made a good throw.''
The Blue Jays have scored 69 runs in the seventh inning or later this season, the most in the Majors. Toronto also improved to 5-0 when tied after eight innings this season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Blue Jays second baseman Yangervis Solarte made a highlight-reel play in the sixth inning. With Cron aboard with a leadoff walk, Duffy hit what looked to be a soft liner to right field. But Solarte leaped high to spear it. After gathering himself, Solarte threw to first baseman Justin Smoak, doubling off Cron.
HE SAID IT
"I just wanted an explanation. Nobody calls balks [anymore]. -- Gibbons, on an eighth-inning balk call against Tepera which put the potential go-ahead run in scoring position
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Blue Jays challenged a third-inning call when Gomez was ruled safe on a stolen-base attempt. After a 47-second review, the call was overturned. It was ruled that Blue Jays second baseman Solarte tagged Gomez on the back before his hand touched second base.
After a diverse road trip -- a visit to the Twins, the Indians (for a makeup doubleheader on what was supposed to be an off-day) and the Rays -- the Blue Jays have Monday off before opening a three-game series against the Mariners on Tuesday night. Marcus Stroman (0-4, 7.52 ERA) will start opposite left-hander James Paxton (1-1, 4.19 ERA). Paxton threw seven innings of shutout ball against the Athletics on May 2, striking out 16 batters. The lefty has four career starts (2-2, 6.86 ERA) against the Blue Jays.