Martin's homer vaults Blue Jays to win over Rays
TORONTO — Russell Martin’s batterymate was denied a milestone achievement on Wednesday night at the Rogers Centre.
Against the Tampa Bay Rays, Martin ensured the Blue Jays gained a split in the two-game series after starter Francisco Liriano should have been celebrating his 100th career win in the majors.
Martin led off the bottom of the eighth with a solo homer off Rays reliever Jose Alvarado, giving Toronto a 7-6 victory before a crowd of 37,734. The home run to centre field was Martin’s sixth of the season.
Liriano was sharp, but remained stuck on 99 wins. Still, the Jays have recorded a victory in six consecutive Liriano starts.
Liriano went seven innings, his longest outing of 2017, and struck out nine Rays. When the 33-year-old was finished through seven, he had thrown exactly 100 pitches and the Jays had a 6-3 lead.
The margin was gone nearly in an instant in the eighth.
Reliever Joe Smith (3-0), otherwise solid this season, gave up a single to Evan Longoria, the first Rays batter he faced.
Next up was Logan Morrison, who went to the opposite field for his 19th home run of the season, cutting the Jays lead to one run.
And the lead disappeared completely when a Derek Norris sacrifice fly scored Steven Souza Jr., who had walked after the Morrison homer and eventually made it to third. That run tied the game 6-6.
After Martin’s homer, Roberto Osuna faced the minimum three batters in the ninth and recorded his 17th save.
Toronto had scored four runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-3 lead.
Kendrys Morales’ three-run home run to the second deck in right ended the night for Rays starter Jake Odorizzi. Morales’ 13th homer of the year, coming on a 3-1 pitch, scored Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista.
Odorizzi has allowed at least one homer in nine consecutive appearances, the longest such streak of his major-league career. And he has given up a homer in 17 of his past 18 starts.
Earlier in the inning, a Bautista single brought home Ryan Goins, who had led off with a single.
Chase Whitley relieved Odorizzi and retired Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowitzki to end the Jays rally.
Liriano responded to the run support in terrific fashion, striking out the side in the top of the sixth.
Martin scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the sixth for the Jays’ sixth run.
The Rays led 3-1 after four innings, though the Jays would have been in a deeper hole had Liriano not been able to work himself out of some trouble in the top of the fourth.
Tampa loaded the bases with none out, but managed to score just a single run.
Toronto recorded the first out when Norris grounded into a force out, with Josh Donaldson throwing Souza out at home.
Next up was Taylor Featherston, who hit a deep sacrifice fly to centre field, scoring Mallex Smith. With two out, Liriano struck out Peter Bourjos to end the half of the inning.
The Jays weren’t able to keep the good feelings going in the bottom of the inning, as Odorizzi retired all three Toronto batters who came to the plate.
Liriano was sharp through the first two innings, throwing just 21 pitches (after entering the game with an average of 19.2 pitches an inning, tied for the highest in the majors) and facing seven batters. A one-out double by Souza in the second was the lone blip.
Tampa got to Liriano in the third, however, to take a 2-0 lead. Let’s re-phrase that: The Rays scored their first two runs following a Goins error.
With one out, Goins fielded a grounder by Featherston but then bobbled the baseball, allowing Featherston to reach base.
Bourjos then singled on what amounted to a dribbler down the third base line, advancing Featherston to second.
The next batter, Corey Dickerson, tripled to right, scoring Featherston and Bourjos.
Dickerson was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice by Donaldson, and Logan Morrison went down swinging for the third out.
The Jays scored their first run in the bottom of the third, as Pillar came in from third when Morales hustled to first to beat out what would have been an inning-ending double play.