Tampa Bay administered what appeared to be an early knockout, but the Blue Jays scored six runs in the final four innings to make the Rays squirm before they could claim their 91st win of the season.
By winning, the Rays earned a spot in a one-game tiebreaker with the Rangers Monday night at 8:07 p.m. ET on TBS. The winner will advance to play the Indians in Wednesday's American League Wild Card Game in Cleveland.
"We're not in the playoffs yet, but we've gotten to this point," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Let's just let the air out and go play."
Lingering in the back of some of the Rays' minds as Sunday's game went south was the memorable Game No. 162 in 2011, when the Rays stormed back from a 7-0 deficit against the Yankees to eventually win -- and get into the playoffs -- via Evan Longoria's walk-off homer.
"I did think that, and it was really awkward," Maddon said. "But I thought, 'This is different.' We're looking through the windshield and not the rearview mirror today."
Tampa Bay charged out of the gate Sunday, scoring six in the first while batting around for the first time since May 8 against Toronto at Tropicana Field.
Wil Myers got the inning started with a one-out double to center field off Blue Jays starter Todd Redmond. James Loney followed with a single to right that scored Myers. Longoria doubled home Loney to put the Rays up, 2-0.
Delmon Young added an RBI single and Jose Lobaton doubled home two more. Yunel Escobar singled home the final run of the inning to give the Rays a sizable lead before the Blue Jays had their first at-bat.
"To be able to score six runs in the first inning is big in any game," Myers said. "I think that was a good way to start out the game, and luckily we held that lead."
The last time Tampa Bay scored six runs in the first inning was Sept. 10, 2010, at Toronto.
"Came out ready to play, man," Maddon said. "Their pitcher's been hot. Redmond's been hot. But really good at-bats up and down the lineup, right down to Lobaton and Escobar -- that was outstanding."
Everything continued to roll the Rays' way in the bottom of the first, when starter Matt Moore walked three but escaped with no damage thanks to a double play and a strikeout of Mark DeRosa to end the inning.
"It really did a lot for me, have that kind of an at-bat to lead off the game and have it kind of washed away with a double play," Moore said."
After two silent innings on offense, the Rays extended their lead to 7-0 in the fourth, when Myers doubled off the wall in left to drive home Escobar.
Moore settled into a nice rhythm, posting five scoreless innings before DeRosa hit a two-run double with one out in the sixth. After Ryan Langerhans added a single, Jake McGee entered the game to take over from Moore.
J.P. Arencibia's sacrifice fly cut the lead to 7-3.
The Blue Jays scored another in the seventh, when Brett Lawrie doubled home a run off McGee. The Blue Jays went on to load the bases with one out -- a situation that prompted Maddon's 32nd career ejection -- but Joel Peralta got pinch-hitter Adam Lind to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Tampa Bay's 7-4 lead eroded further in the eighth after the Blue Jays got two aboard with two out against Peralta, prompting the Rays to bring in closer Fernando Rodney.
Jose Reyes greeted Rodney with an RBI single and Anthony Gose followed suit to cut the lead to 7-6. Lawrie then walked to load the bases for Moises Sierra. But Rodney recovered to get a swinging strikeout for the third out.
Rodney then surrendered a single to Lind to start the ninth.
Rodney recovered to get Langerhans to ground into a forceout, and he struck out Josh Thole for the second out of the inning. Ryan Goins flew out to left to end the game.
"I'm confident all the time," Rodney said. "But that's baseball. Most important thing is we win the game."
Toronto manager John Gibbons saluted his team's effort.
"It would have been easy to tuck it in; we had a huge crowd today and they were behind us," Gibbons said. "As tough as the year was, I got a lot of satisfaction and I found out a lot of things about some of the guys in there and had a lot of enjoyment along the way as well."
The Rays have been through many ups and downs all season, which made Sunday's ending fitting for a team to which things never seem to come easy.
"That was all the high blood pressure, you can kind of feel your heart right through your shirt," Moore said. "It was worth it. It helps make the moment a little more special."