The Toronto Blue Jays had to earn the lead a few times on Monday night, but a great night from Devon Travis put them over the top 7-5 in their series-opener against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Starter R.A. Dickey had an up-and-down day, which is a common theme for the veteran. He lasted four and a third innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Dickey’s first inning was a marathon, loading the bases with an infield single and two walks on a gruelling 34 pitches. He buckled down just in time, though, striking out Nick Franklin to escape unscathed.
Travis continued to play the role of spark plug, tripling in his first at-bat of the game (the first of his career) and coming home quickly on a Jose Bautista RBI sacrifice fly. The red-hot second baseman recorded his first four-hit game to raise his average to .304.
Edwin Encarnacion also joined the party in the first launched his 299th career home run, a solo shot into the left-field bullpen. It was Toronto’s 17th consecutive home run without a runner on base.
Back-to-back doubles got the Rays on the board in the top of the fourth, and another from Tim Beckham brought the game back even.
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Encarnacion was soon back at it, though. After runners moved to second and third on a third-strike wild pitch to Donaldson where he reached first, Encarnacion singled home a pair to put Toronto back out in front.
The wild ride kept spinning for Dickey, however. After a single, a hit batter and yet another passed ball, Miller doubled in a pair to bring the score even at 4-4 and end Dickey’s night on a quick hook after just 89 pitches.
Joe Biagini took over in relief and with some help from his infield he held the Rays scoreless over one and two-third to drop his ERA to 2.14. Joaquin Benoit opened the seventh, and after allowing runners to reach second and third, the veteran stranded the pair. Jason Grilli pitched another scoreless frame in the eighth before Roberto Osuna picked up his 25th save of the season (solo home run allowed).
In the bottom of the seventh, the deciding inning, John Gibbons made the rare move to pinch-hit Russell Martin on an off day (for Ceciliani) and it worked out as the veteran walked to load the bases with none out. After an Upton strikeout and a Justin Smoak fielder’s choice (saved by a Michael Saunders hard slide at home), Travis drove a single up the gut for his fourth hit of the night. A Bautista double then put Toronto back in front 7-4.
Prior to the game, Kevin Pillar was placed on the disabled list (retroactive to August 7th) with a left thumb injury. Darrell Ceciliani was recalled in his place and Melvin Upton is expected to start in his place as the Blue Jays’ primary centre-fielder.