Jackson takes shutout into eighth as Rays win 3-2
ST. PETERSBURG — Edwin Jackson took a shutout into the eighth inning, Cliff Floyd and Willy Aybar each homered, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 on Thursday night to guarantee they will finish no worse than .500 for the first time in franchise history.
Tampa Bay, 81-51 and an AL-best 49-19 at home, took two of three from Toronto and are 11-0-1 in series play since the All-Star break. The Rays extended their lead in the AL East over Boston to 4½ games. The Red Sox lost 3-2 to the New York Yankees.
Jackson (11-8) gave up one run and six hits over seven-plus innings in winning for the sixth time in his last seven starts. He departed after allowing Alex Rios' double to start the eighth.
Rios scored on Adam Lind's infield single and Rod Barajas added a two-out RBI double later in the eighth, cutting the Toronto deficit to 3-2. Jose Bautista, mired in an 0-for-24 slide, struck out to end the inning.
Dan Wheeler pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 12 opportunities.
Floyd put Tampa Bay up 2-0 with a first-inning sacrifice fly and a solo homer in the third.
Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead when Aybar homered off Jesse Litsch (9-8) in the sixth. Aybar, who entered in an 1-for-16 slide, had three hits in four at-bats.
Litsch allowed three runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings.
Toronto had at least one baserunner in each of the first six innings, but failed to score.
Thursday's announced attendance was 14,039, making it the sixth consecutive Rays' home game with a turnout under 20,000. Wednesday's crowd was 12,678.
"I'm really proud of the fact that we've really raised the level of our intensity despite only having 12,000 people in the stands," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said before the game. "They've been very professional about this. That's the part I really appreciate about it also. You'd like to see 36,000 every night, but for right now, the way our guys are going about our business, I'm very proud of them."