Rays 10 Blue Jays 9
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ben Zobrist keeps proving his worth to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The first-time all-star, one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season, drove in four runs with a homer and tie-breaking ninth-inning single that gave the AL champions a 10-9 victory over slumping Toronto on Wednesday night.
The Rays dropped their division rival in dramatic fashion for the second straight night. Pat Burrell homered in the 11th inning in the series opener to beat the Blue Jays, who have lost nine of 11.
“The last two games have been great for us. They’re big because they’re games we’re going to need to win the AL East,” Zobrist said. “That’s our goal, and we’re going to keep pushing for that.”
Zobrist, a utility player who started at six positions before settling in as the regular second baseman in place of the injured Akinori Iwamura, is batting .289 with 17 homers and 50 RBIs.
He homered off Blue Jays starter Brian Tallet in the fourth inning. His winning hit off Scott Downs with two outs drove in Carl Crawford, who singled off Jason Frasor (5-2) before stealing second and third.
“We scored some runs,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “We just didn’t hold them.”
B.J. Upton stole home in the first inning and had an RBI single in the second for the Rays, who built two three-run leads that Scott Kazmir and Tampa Bay’s bullpen couldn’t hold.
Toronto wiped out deficits of 5-2 and 9-6 before wasting an opportunity to go ahead when it stranded two runners in the eighth.
J.P. Howell (5-2) pitched the ninth to get the victory.
Scott Rolen had three hits and drove in a run, extending his career-best hitting streak to 25 games for Toronto, which fell to .500 (43-43) for the first time this year.
Kazmir, still looking for his first win in two months, allowed seven runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings. The Blue Jays scored two runs charged to reliever Grant Balfour to make it 9-9 in the seventh.
“It felt like I pitched way better than that,” said Kazmir, who hasn’t won since beating Boston on May 9. “It seems like I haven’t gotten one break the whole year. I’m due.”
In his third start since ending a five-week stay on the disabled list with a right quad strain, Kazmir allowed solo homers to Adam Lind and Vernon Wells before giving up three runs in the fourth to blow a 5-2 lead.
Rolen doubled, Wells reached on an infield single and Kevin Millar walked to load the bases with no outs in the Toronto fourth.
Alex Rios drove in a run on a forceout at second, and the Blue Jays made it 5-5 when Marco Scutaro singled off first baseman Carlos Pena’s glove to drive in two more runs.
Toronto’s momentum was short-lived.
Three batters later, Tallet gave up Zobrist’s 17th homer and departed after yielding eight runs and 11 hits in three-plus innings, his shortest start of the year.
“I don’t know who was pitching worse. Him or the kid across the way,” Gaston said of Tallet and Kazmir. “It was kind of a race, who’s going to get run out of there first.”
Trailing 9-6 entering the seventh, Aaron Hill doubled for the final hit off Kazmir, then scored on Rolen’s single off Balfour. After Millar doubled to drive in the second run of the inning, Rios singled to make it 9-9.