Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

'Pill' HR final blow in Blue Jays-Rays slugfest

MLB.com

ST. PETERSBURG -- Fittingly enough, a home run provided the final edge in Wednesday night's Blue Jays-Rays slugfest at Tropicana Field, won 7-6 by the Blue Jays.

Kevin Pillar (who is known as "Pill" for Players Weekend) did the trick, homering off of Tommy Hunter to lead off the eighth. Pillar's 13th home run gave the Blue Jays a one-run lead they would not relinquish.

View Full Game Coverage

ST. PETERSBURG -- Fittingly enough, a home run provided the final edge in Wednesday night's Blue Jays-Rays slugfest at Tropicana Field, won 7-6 by the Blue Jays.

Kevin Pillar (who is known as "Pill" for Players Weekend) did the trick, homering off of Tommy Hunter to lead off the eighth. Pillar's 13th home run gave the Blue Jays a one-run lead they would not relinquish.

View Full Game Coverage

"I just left the curveball up," Hunter said. "Didn't bounce it. I got to bounce the next one, but in this game you don't get any do-overs. … I didn't get it to where I wanted it to go and he clipped it."

The Blue Jays (60-66) snapped a four-game losing streak while trying to remain relevant in the American League Wild Card race. They began the night with six teams ahead of them for the second Wild Card spot, the Rays (62-66) being one of those teams.

The teams combined for nine home runs, tying a Rays record for the most combined homers in a game set Aug. 7, 2010, vs. the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Video: TOR@TB: Blue Jays' offense tees off for six home runs

"We have a good offense and we were able to put it together tonight," Toronto slugger Steve Pearce said. "It would have been nice to hit some homers with runners on base, but that's just the way it happens. Tonight was just a typical Rays-Jays matchup."

The Blue Jays got busy early Wednesday against Rays starter Austin Pruitt. Josh Donaldson ("Bringer of Rain") hit a two-run homer in the first. Ryan Goins ("Go Go"), Raffy Lopez and Pearce added solo home runs in the second to stake the Blue Jays to a 5-0 lead.

Players Weekend gear available at MLBShop.com

Kevin Kiermaier ("The Outlaw") continued his hot hitting with a two-run homer in the third off Marcus Stroman ("Stro Show") and Steven Souza Jr. ("Souzbot") added a solo homer in the fourth to cut the lead to 5-3.

Video: TOR@TB: Kiermaier hits a pair of homers vs. Blue Jays

"Balls are flying out these days. Just is what it is," Stroman said. "I didn't make particularly good pitches either in those situations, so those balls should have left. Kiermaier had my number today, felt like he was kind of right on time for all my pitches, and I hung a pitch to Souza that he put a good swing on."

Justin Smoak ("Moakey") homered off Chase Whitley to push the Blue Jays' lead to 6-3, but Kiermaier answered with his second homer, and 10th of the season, to make it 6-4.

Brad Miller ("Rat") singled home a run in the bottom of the sixth, earning the distinction of being the first hitter of the game to drive in a run without hitting a home run. Evan Longoria's infield single in the seventh drove home Kiermaier to briefly tie the game at 6.

Video: TOR@TB: Longoria ties the game with an RBI single

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Pillar produces: Hunter entered the game for the Rays in the top of the eighth hoping to maintain the tie. Pillar had different ideas. The Blue Jays center fielder, best known for being a defensive superstar, was 0-for-3 at the plate but had four hits in eight career at-bats against Hunter.

With the count at 2-2, Hunter tried an 84 mph curveball, which Pillar deposited 414 feet over the left-field wall. The barreled ball had a 99.8-mph exit velocity with a 27-degree launch angle.

Three's a charm: While the Blue Jays' second inning didn't produce a knockout punch, the frame gave their side of the ledger a healthy boost. Goins homered to lead off and one out later, Lopez and Pearce connected for back-to-back home runs to complete the three-run burst that gave the Blue Jays the early 5-0 lead.

Video: TOR@TB: Blue Jays crush three homers in the 2nd

Blue Jays practice equal distribution of power

QUOTABLE
"If we don't keep the ball in the ballpark, we are not going to win. That was the storyline." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The four home runs allowed by Pruitt were the most by a Ray since Matt Andriese surrendered four to the Yankees on Aug. 13, 2016, at Yankee Stadium, and the most in a home game since Matt Moore allowed five on Sept. 12, 2015, against the Red Sox.

UNDER REVIEW
The Rays challenged in the third when Wilson Ramos was called out at first. After a 41-second review, the call was overturned and Ramos had an infield single, the Rays' first hit of the game and Ramos' third infield hit in two games.

Video: TOR@TB: Ramos reaches on an infield hit for review

TWO OPTIONED
To make room for Thursday's starter Alex Cobb to be activated on the 25-man roster, the Rays optioned Whitley and fellow right-hander Andrew Kittredge following the game. Right-hander Chih-Wei Hu will be recalled prior to Thursday's game.

WHAT'S NEXT
Blue Jays: Tom Koehler (1-5, 7.92) will make his Blue Jays debut as Toronto closes out its series with Tampa Bay at 1:10 p.m. ET Thursday at Tropicana Field. Acquired from the Marlins, Koehler's 7.92 ERA is the third-highest in the Majors among those who have thrown 50 innings. His last Major League start came July 23, when he allowed five earned runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Rays: Cobb (9-8, 3.80) gets the nod against the Blue Jays in the series finale, and will be making his first start since going on the 10-day disabled list with turf toe on his right big toe. He last pitched Aug. 5 against the Brewers and allowed one run on five hits in six innings, but took his eighth loss.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2004.

Connor Mount is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg who covered the Blue Jays on Wednesday.