Myers continues hot streak, leads Rays to win
Peralta escapes eighth-inning jam; Tampa Bay has won 16 of 18
TORONTO -- Joel Peralta's eighth-inning escape and Wil Myers' two RBIs paved the way for Tampa Bay to earn a 4-3 win over Toronto on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
Tampa Bay has now won 12 of its last 13 games and 16 of its last 18, extending its winning streak to four while improving to 57-41 on the season.
Jeremy Hellickson started for the Rays and exited after five innings, leaving four innings for the bullpen. Alex Torres pitched two scoreless frames before walking the first two hitters he faced in the eighth and giving way to Peralta.
Peralta, the veteran right-hander, walked Adam Lind to load the bases for Colby Rasmus, who popped out to catcher Jose Molina in foul territory. Peralta struck out Maicer Izturis for the second out, and then J.P. Arencibia stepped to the plate.
The raucous crowd of 42,639 raised the noise level dramatically when the count reached 3-2. But the ever-dependable Peralta won the battle by striking Arencibia out swinging to end the inning.
"Split-finger," said Peralta when asked what pitch he got Arencibia to bite on. "It was really a good pitch, and 3-2. [Pitching coach Jim] Hickey came to the mound and told me this guy's not as good with the split and the slider. So that was the plan."
It was Peralta's 51st appearance of the season, which has been cause for concern for manager Joe Maddon, who tried to give his workhorse some help in Friday night's game as well as Saturday's. Kyle Farnsworth walked a batter on Friday before Peralta came in to get three outs. On Saturday he entered into another tough situation.
"How about Peralta?" said Maddon, who called his effort 'Houdini-esque.' "What I'm trying to do is make it easier for him. I'm just making it more difficult. And what he does right there is spectacular."
Peralta managed a smile regarding his manager's intentions.
"They're trying to give me a rest, but it's not working right now," Peralta said. "Kind of backwards. ... I'm glad it worked out today."
After surviving the eighth, Tampa Bay needed to escape one final jam in the ninth after closer Fernando Rodney entered the game trying to preserve a 4-2 lead.
Rodney threw out Rajai Davis on a bang-bang play at first for the first out. He then walked Brett Lawrie before striking out Jose Reyes. Jose Bautista singled to right to put runners at first and third for Edwin Encarnacion.
Rodney got the Blue Jays slugger to hit a ball back to the mound for what should have been the third out. But Rodney couldn't handle the chance, and the error allowed Lawrie to score and all the runners were safe.
"Once it bounced, I do not see the ball after that," Rodney said.
The ninth grew more interesting when Bautista stole third on Rodney's first pitch to Lind. Encarnacion then stole second, putting the winning run in scoring position. But Rodney got Lind to fly out to center field to end the threat and earn his 14 consecutive save, and 23rd of the season. He managed to find some humor in what happened in the ninth when he shed his glove en route to the dugout, playfully tossing the malfunctioning leather over his head.
"We had opportunities, especially late there," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "Couldn't get that big one. Of course the eighth inning, you plate one, you never know how the game's going to turn out. But we came up goose eggs there. … It's frustrating, but we did have our chances. We just couldn't get that big hit."
Myers, batting cleanup for the first time, led the Rays' offense with two RBIs, including a first-inning sacrifice fly off Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle that got the Rays headed in the right direction. He added an RBI single in the Rays' three-run third -- his 14th hit in the last seven games -- to push their lead to 4-0. Evan Longoria had an RBI single in the inning, and scored on an error.
"I think anybody likes hitting with runners in scoring position," Myers said. "It's obviously my favorite time. I enjoy it. I really lock in a little bit more when I've got runners in scoring position. I was able to get a few RBIs, that was nice."
Maddon smiled when asked about the perception that Myers is oblivious to pressure.
"He don't care," Maddon said. "He just shows up and plays. He just plays. He's having a good old time out there. I truly hope he never changes."
Hellickson allowed two runs on five hits, including Bautista's 22nd home run of the season, to pick up his ninth win. After the game, Maddon revealed the right-hander had not been in top form heading into his start.
"I didn't know where that one was going to go," Maddon said. "He was not feeling well before the game. I had to keep a really close eye on him. But he got through it nicely. ... He did his job today."
Peralta has engineered his share of great escapes while pitching out of the Rays' bullpen. According to the veteran, Saturday's ranked high among his body of work.
"Today was really big," Peralta said. "…Where we are right now, in second place behind Boston, it was huge."