TORONTO -- The Blue Jays gained a little ground in the race for the second American League Wild Card spot and dealt yet another blow to the Rays' hopes for the postseason on Monday night at Rogers Centre.Right-hander Nick Tepesch allowed one run over six strong innings and the bullpen
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays gained a little ground in the race for the second American League Wild Card spot and dealt yet another blow to the Rays' hopes for the postseason on Monday night at Rogers Centre.
Right-hander Nick Tepesch allowed one run over six strong innings and the bullpen took it the rest of the way in Toronto's 2-1 victory. Tepesch scattered four hits and three walks while Aaron Loup and Roberto Osuna combined to toss three scoreless innings.
With the loss, Tampa Bay dropped to 2 1/2 games behind the Angels for the second AL Wild Card. Toronto pulled to within 3 1/2 games of the Angels, who had Monday off. The Rays have now lost four consecutive games and eight of their last 10 to fall back in the race, while the Blue Jays are within four games of .500 for the first time since June 29.
"I feel like we've been on the wrong side of those a lot this year," said Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, whose team won for just the third time this season when scoring two or fewer runs. "Especially against Tampa [Bay], I feel like they always figure it out against us. But we did a good job playing defense and we pitched extremely well today."
Josh Donaldson provided all the offense Toronto would need in the top of the first inning when he hit a two-run shot to right field for his 17th home run. Jose Bautista chipped in with three walks but that was the extent of the damage off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi, who deserved a better fate after allowing two earned runs on three hits and three walks over six innings.
Tampa Bay was held to three runs or less for the fourth consecutive game, and has scored just 12 runs over its past 10 games.
"I don't have any good answers," said Rays manager Kevin Cash after the loss. "I know it's my responsibility to have answers, [but] I don't have them right now. I guess a couple of the underlying things we can look at, we hit some balls really hard. We hit some balls really high. It looked like we had four or five just misses."
One of the Rays' lone bright spots Monday came via a solo homer by Wilson Ramos in the top of the second inning. It was Ramos' fourth home run, and his first since July 6.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Escaping the jam: Loup took over for Tepesch in the top of the seventh with a pair of runners on and nobody out. His outing started by getting Corey Dickerson to hit into a fielder's choice and he then followed that up by striking out Lucas Duda and inducing a weak pop-up off the bat of Evan Longoria to escape with Toronto's lead still intact. Loup returned for the eighth inning and then handed things over to Osuna, who went on to complete his first four-out save since Sept. 19, 2016, at Seattle.
"[Ryan] Tepera and [Danny] Barnes were down tonight," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of his top setup men. "Loupy's had some success against righties … and it worked out. He was able to turn it over to Osuna. Nice ballgame."
Bringer of rain: The Blue Jays started the game with a bang. Bautista drew a leadoff walk and then came around to score when Donaldson hit a soaring fly ball over the wall in right field for a two-run shot. According to Statcast™, the ball was projected to travel 372 feet and left his bat at 98 mph. Toronto has hit 32 home runs since July 25, most in the Major Leagues over that span. Nine of Donaldson's homers have come in the first inning, tied with Houston's George Springer for the most in the AL.
"I feel like I've been having pretty strong at-bats," said Donaldson, who has eight homers over his last 16 games. "Whenever I get my pitch, I'm putting a good swing on it. When I'm able to do that, for the most part, I can have some success."
• Ramos shows signs of offensive life despite loss
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The six innings from Tepesch were the most he had in one outing since Sept. 21, 2014. It marked his first win since Sept. 16, 2014, at Oakland. Tepesch became the first Toronto starter to pick up a win without recording a single strikeout since R.A. Dickey on May 4, 2015, vs. the Yankees.
There was confusion in the top of the seventh when Dickerson hit a blooper over the head of Loup that one-hopped into the glove of second baseman Rob Refsnyder. He flipped to Ryan Goins at second for a forceout of the runner coming from first base. Peter Bourjos, who'd been standing on second when the play began, was also called out by a tag. After review, the double play was overturned and only the initial forceout at second stood. Goins' mistake was that he touched the bag at second for a forceout before tagging Bourjos. If he had tagged Bourjos and then stepped on second he would have secured a double play.
"They did get it right," said Cash, "and I kind of applaud them for the patience that they showed communicating with each other then going to replay to see exactly what took place. A very unique play."
"It's a difficult play," Donaldson said. "Things are happening so fast. You're kind of wanting the second baseman to not be able to make the play so we can [turn a double play], but a lot of times you end up making the play anyhow. Then you had really great baserunning by them all the way around because that very easily could have been a triple play."
Rays: Left-hander Blake Snell (0-6, 4.69) will take the mound for Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the series on Tuesday at 7:07 p.m. ET in Toronto. Snell rode an excellent fastball to 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in his last start against Cleveland. He's now pitched six or more innings in three of his 15 MLB starts this season.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (5-7, 4.85) is set to oppose Snell for Toronto. Estrada had arguably the worst stretch of his career in June and July but has since bounced back. Estrada has allowed three earned runs or less in each of his last four starts and picked up his first win since May 27 during his last outing.
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Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto who covered the Rays on Monday.