Blue Jays 13 Rays 5
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Ricky Romero and his Toronto teammates thoroughly enjoyed a big inning against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Jose Bautista hit his major league-leading 43rd homer during a 10-run sixth inning and the Blue Jays beat Tampa Bay 13-5 on Tuesday night.
“You love that,” said Romero, who pitched into the eighth inning for his 11th win. “You wish you could see that every night. We’ve taken a lot of whippings from those guys, so it’s always good when we get to do it to them.”
Tampa Bay lost for only the fifth time in 17 games but fell a game behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East. The Rays and Yankees, who beat Oakland 9-3, had been tied atop the division for the previous eight days.
Bautista capped the sixth-inning outburst with a three-run shot off reliever Lance Cormier that put the Blue Jays up 11-3. It was the most runs scored in one inning by Toronto since an 11-run sixth on July 25, 2007, at Minnesota.
“We have a tough time with those guys,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “Anytime we can score that many runs off that team it’s always nice. It turned out to be what I call ’a coaches and managers night,’ when they can sit back and kind of relax a little bit.”
Bautista also had a broken-bat, run-scoring single — giving him 103 RBIs this season — during a two-run eighth that extended the cushion to 13-3. He was hit on the upper left thigh by a pitch in the first of two plate appearances during the sixth.
“It hurt,” said Bautista, who still had a red spot after the game where the ball struck him. “I didn’t think much of it. We got a pretty good rally going there. We got the win and that’s all that matters.”
Romero (11-8) gave up five runs, three hits and five walks in 7 1-3 innings for the Blue Jays, who can stop a stretch of 10 straight series defeats at Tampa Bay with a win on Wednesday night.
“They can really strike quick,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s what they do. That’s who they are.”
Jeff Niemann (10-5) struggled in his second consecutive start since returning from a strained right shoulder, giving up seven runs and seven hits in five-plus innings. The Tampa Bay right-hander has allowed 17 runs over 8 2-3 innings in his past two outings.
Niemann allowed only two hits though five innings before Toronto started the sixth with five hits and a hit by pitch. DeWayne Wise had an RBI single, Vernon Wells hit a two-run double, and Adam Lind and John Buck had consecutive RBI doubles as the Blue Jays took a 6-3 lead and ended Niemann’s night.
“I’m still not sure what happened,” Niemann said. “I felt great early and all of a sudden I couldn’t get anybody out.”
Cormier entered and gave up Aaron Hill’s two-run homer that made it 8-3.
Romero held the Rays hitless until there were two outs in the fifth, when Ben Zobrist hit an RBI single and Dan Johnson drove in a pair with a double to put Tampa Bay ahead 3-1.
John McDonald put the Blue Jays up 1-0 in the third on his second homer in the last three games.
Romero allowed two baserunners through four innings — walks to Zobrist and B.J. Upton — and both were erased on double plays. The left-hander got early defensive help when Wise made a diving catch in right on Upton’s drive leading off the first.
Reid Brignac had a two-run single in the eighth for Tampa Bay.
Notes: Toronto has 201 homers this season. … Rays reliever Grant Balfour (ribs) could pitch in a simulated game Wednesday. … Gaston said the Blue Jays got Bautista’s home run ball, which helped him reach 100 RBIs for the first time, back from the fan who caught it.