TORONTO -- The cluttered American League Wild Card race isn't getting any clearer after Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays held on for a 3-2 win over the Rays on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.Stroman was charged with just two runs over 6 1/3 innings and brought his season ERA
TORONTO -- The cluttered American League Wild Card race isn't getting any clearer after Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays held on for a 3-2 win over the Rays on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre.
Stroman was charged with just two runs over 6 1/3 innings and brought his season ERA down to 2.99 while tying a career high with his 11th win. The right-hander struck out seven batters and allowed six hits and three walks, but he controlled Tampa Bay's lineup by forcing plenty of ground-ball contact with his sinking two-seam fastball. Stroman induced eight groundouts to only one flyout.
"I want to be that guy to go 200, 220, 230 [innings] every single year," said Stroman, who finished Wednesday's game tied for third in the Majors with 159 1/3 innings. "I want to be that guy to be counted on every single time I take the ball every fifth day to give the bullpen a rest and give us some length. I pride myself on that, and that's why I work as hard as I do."
With the Angels' win over the Nationals earlier on Wednesday afternoon, the Blue Jays kept pace at 3 1/2 games back, while the Rays slipped to 2 1/2 behind Los Angeles. Joining the two teams within 3 1/2 games of the second AL Wild Card spot are the Orioles, Rangers, Mariners, Twins and Royals.
Closer Roberto Osuna worked around a leadoff single by Mallex Smith to throw a scoreless ninth inning for his 31st save.
Rays starter Jacob Faria kept his team in the game over 5 1/3 innings before handing off to the bullpen. The 24-year-old rookie allowed three runs on six hits, including an opposite-field home run to Steve Pearce, and struck out three.
"I don't think Jake was at his best or at his sharpest," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Saying that, though, he pitched a pretty good ballgame, and we didn't really help him out on defense too much."
• Lineup versatility gives Cash ability to shuffle
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Leone escapes the danger: Stroman exited with the bases loaded and just one out after allowing a single and two walks in the seventh, and lefty Aaron Loup didn't fare any better, walking in a run against the one batter he faced. Dominic Leone then came in for his first appearance since being activated from the bereavement list and got the Blue Jays out of trouble. After striking out Evan Longoria looking, Leone forced Logan Morrison to pop out to second baseman Rob Refsnyder to escape the inning with the lead.
"I'm not necessarily looking for a strikeout," Leone said. "I more or less wanted to get ahead and be able to dictate the at-bat. Ideally, it would have been nice to get a first-pitch ground-ball double play and we get right out of the inning, but I just wanted to be aggressive, throw strikes and put the pressure on him."
Barney bails out Osuna: The Rays started the ninth inning with a single from the speedy Smith, but he was immediately erased by an excellent play from Darwin Barney. Adeiny Hechavarria shot a ground ball back up the middle, but Barney, who moved to shortstop after Ryan Goins left the game injured in the sixth inning, ranged to his left just in time to make the sliding play. He then spun from his knees and fired to Refsnyder at second base for the out.
"It's always nice to get the job done, and Osuna was battling out there," Barney said. "With the turf, sometimes those hops can be tricky. Fortunately, it found my glove."
"Turf should never be tricky for us. We live on the turf. We know the ball bounces." -- Cash, on the unfriendly bounces in the outfield that have cost the Rays in this series
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Pearce's solo homer in the fourth inning was his first to right field since May 25, 2015, vs. Houston, which was a span of 35 home runs. He has reached base safely in 15 consecutive games and is batting .314 (16-for-51) with eight extra-base hits, a .446 on-base percentage and a 1.054 OPS over that same span.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was ejected in the top of the seventh inning for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale. The incident happened shortly after Loup did not get a called third strike on a borderline pitch with the bases loaded against Steven Souza Jr. Instead of strike three, the count went to 3-2, and Loup walked in a run on the very next pitch. Gibbons was then ejected for the fifth time this season as he walked on the field to make a pitching change.
Rays: Right-hander Chris Archer (8-7, 3.84 ERA), who will make the start in Thursday's finale against the Blue Jays, allowed three runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings against the Indians in his last start. It was the first time since May 15 that he didn't throw at least six innings. Archer has a 2.57 ERA in three outings against the Blue Jays this season. First pitch is set for 4:07 p.m. ET.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Chris Rowley will make the second start of his career when the four-game series wraps up. Rowley got the win in his big league debut on Saturday, allowing one run over 5 1/3 innings against the Pirates at Rogers Centre.
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Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto who covered the Rays on Wednesday.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.