TORONTO — The Rays have known for months they weren't going anywhere this season. If the Blue Jays don't go to the playoffs, the Rays will end up being a big reason why.
The Rays' 6-2 win over the Jays on Tuesday was their 10th in 18 games between the American League East foes in 2016, with the finale today, marking the eighth time in nine years the Rays have won the season series.
"We sit back and wonder," RF Steven Souza Jr. said. "That's one of the best ballclubs in the league, and we always, even last year, we play them tough. That's a great environment to play in. They bring their A game every day, and so it kind of forces us to bring our A game. If we could harness that and play the rest of the league like that we'd be a pretty good ballclub."
Making Tuesday's loss more stinging, key Rays contributors came from a group of previously discarded players including SS Alexei Ramirez, LHP Dana Eveland and RHP Danny Farquhar.
The Rays (61-83) built their lead on two home runs, a three-run shot by Ramirez, who was signed last week after being released by the Padres to provide some infield depth, in the fifth and a solo shot by Souza in the seventh, then added on in the ninth.
They kept it after a strong 5⅔-inning start by LHP Drew Smyly thanks to the work of five relievers. Eveland, in his first outing since being summoned back to action from his California home a week after the Triple-A season ended, and Farquhar, who spent most of the season in the minors, got the biggest outs in a crucial seventh-inning sequence.
"We had guys that we called upon that really came through right there," manager Kevin Cash said.
With a man on, Eveland struck out Monday hero Ezequiel Carrera. "When it was all said and done it was fun," he said. "I was a little nervous."
Then Farquhar extended his streak of scoreless appearances to nine, getting an out, then allowing a single and a walk to Jose Bautista. That loaded the bases for AL RBI leader Edwin Encarnacion and excited the crowd of 38,338, but Farquhar prevailed by using his changeup then getting him to swing through a 93.5 mph fastball. "It was a good test," he said. "And I got out of it."
Smyly was pulled after his lone costly mistake, allowing a two-run homer to Russell Martin on his 101st pitch. "He was outstanding," Cash said.
Overall, Cash said it was an exciting win: "That's kind of the atmosphere we've been talking about, it's a good experience for myself, for everybody that's involved."
ABOUT MONDAY NIGHT: Jays SS Troy Tulowitzki declined comment to the Times when asked what led him to aggressively interject himself into the "miscommunication" between C Russell Martin and Souza and cause the benches to empty at the end of Monday's game.
Souza, who didn't have any previous interaction with Tulowitzki, said he was over it. "We're not going to be best friends tomorrow, but I've forgiven him and am moving on," Souza said. "Heat of the moment, emotional game. He obviously assumed something was happening and just came to the rescue of Russell Martin."
CEDENO DOWN: LHP Xavier Cedeno is not officially done for the season, but that seems a strong possibility as he tried throwing the past two days and remains impacted by stiffness in his neck. Cash said Cedeno, who hasn't pitched since Aug. 29, will stay with the team and keep working out but will see a doctor at home next week. … 1B/DH Logan Morrison heads home this morning for an MRI and exam to determine if surgery is required on his left wrist.
ON SCHEDULE: The 2017 schedule will be released today, with the Rays set to open at home with the Yankees and host interleague games with the Marlins, Reds, Brewers and Joe Maddon's Cubs (Sept. 19-20).
MISCELLANY: RHP Alex Cobb starts today, hoping in his third time out since elbow surgery for continued improvement in the quality of his pitches. … Prior to Thursday's game, RHP Chris Archer and Orioles OF Adam Jones will host a group from the Boys and Girls club.