TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays wanted to kick off a critical nine-game homestand with a bang to give their fading playoff hopes a boost.
The Tampa Bay Rays ended up showing them how it’s done.
Drew Smyly threw a two-hit shutout and Evan Longoria homered and drove in three runs as the Rays dumped the Blue Jays 8-0 on Friday night at Rogers Centre. Wil Myers also went deep as the Rays pounded out 14 hits in the opener of a three-game series.
It was the seventh loss in nine games for the Blue Jays (65-63), who entered play four games out of the final wild-card spot in the American League.
“When you’re high, everything is going to go your way. When you’re struggling, everything is going to go against you,” said Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro. “A couple of plays here and there probably would have changed the outcome of the game.
“But they outplayed us today, they outpitched us, they outhustled us.”
Longoria took Marcus Stroman’s first pitch in the second inning over the wall to give Tampa Bay an early 1-0 lead. It was his 16th homer of the season.
Tampa Bay took advantage of some suspect defence in the fifth inning. Matt Joyce led off with a double on a ball that bounced off right-fielder Jose Bautista’s glove as he tried to make a running catch at the warning track.
Longoria walked and James Loney followed with a grounder to short that should have been a double-play ball. But second baseman Steve Tolleson’s throw to first bounced in the dirt, allowing Joyce to score.
The Rays drove Stroman (7-5) from the game in the sixth and burned reliever Aaron Loup in a four-run frame that put the game out of reach.
“I figured we’d come out there tonight with a little more energy,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “We didn’t have it and we made some mistakes, we couldn’t turn that big double play. We laid back on a couple balls, things like that.
“But Smyly was pretty good out there, I’ll give him that.”
It was the first shutout and first complete game of the southpaw’s career. Smyly threw 75 of his 105 pitches for strikes, didn’t walk a batter and had four strikeouts.
“It was good, I have been waiting for this game,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was ever going to get it because I usually have high pitch counts.”
Stroman, meanwhile, allowed 10 hits, five earned runs, three walks and had six strikeouts.
“I was just up a little bit,” Stroman said. “My sinker was pretty good, change-up wasn’t bad. It was just a couple pitches that I left up, some curve balls that were up in the zone and they capitalized on it.”
Smyly (8-10) allowed a single to Jose Reyes in the first inning and a single to Tolleson in the third before retiring the next 19 batters in order.
“That was, for my money, the best pitching performance I’ve seen from a Ray in this ballpark,” said Tampa manager Joe Maddon. “Truly a really artistic performance tonight.”
Myers tacked on an insurance run in the eighth inning with a solo shot off Todd Redmond.
Tampa Bay left 12 men on base while Toronto left just one.