Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rays 2, Blue Jays 1

Rays end skid by beating Blue Jays 2-1

ST. PETERSBURG — To reliever J.P. Howell, it had "felt like forever" since the Rays last won.

In reality, it was a rough 12 days for Tampa Bay, which carried the burden of a seven-game losing streak into the much-needed All-Star break.

Having dropped from the best record in baseball to second in the American League East, the players returned Thursday refreshed, recharged and refocused on reverting to the form of their first-half run.

And after Friday night's thrilling 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays was clinched in an eerily familiar formula, the Rays finally felt, as James Shields put it, "relief."

From the strong starting pitching (Shields) to the unlikely offensive star (Ben Zobrist) to a clutch hold by the bullpen (Howell and Grant Balfour), this win felt a lot like many of their can-you-believe-it-come-from-behind victories.

But to Shields, this one meant more than just snapping a season-long losing streak and allowing the Rays (56-39) to move back into first place (thanks to Boston's 11-3 loss to the Angels).

"I think it sets the tone for the whole second half," Shields said. "If you talk to me three weeks from now, I think you'll find (Friday's game was) a big win."

Shields (8-6) set the tone with another strong home start.

In a pitcher's duel, Shields matched A.J. Burnett inning for inning, scattering just four hits over seven innings. Shields' only miscue was a solo homer by Adam Lind in the third.

The Rays continued to struggle with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-5 to make them 5-for-58 (.086) in their past eight games. Their big guns — Carl Crawford (1-for-4), B.J. Upton (0-for-4, three strikeouts) and Carlos Pena (0-for-3) — weren't clicking, but the bottom of the lineup helped save the day.

In the seventh, Eric Hinske had, arguably, the at-bat of the day, drawing a two-out walk. Hinske worked a 3-and-2 count before checking his swing on ball four.

"Hinske's at-bat was everything," Zobrist said.

That's because on the next pitch, Zobrist smacked a 395-foot homer to rightfield. For Zobrist, filling in for injured shortstop Jason Bartlett, it was his fourth — and biggest — of the season.

"It was a great feeling to just be the guy (Friday)," Zobrist said. "But it's going be someone else (tonight)."

It turned out to be someone else in the next inning.

After a throwing error by Zobrist put a runner on second with nobody out, Howell got two outs before Balfour struck out Alex Rios with the tying run on third.

Balfour tossed a scoreless ninth for his fourth save.

"You didn't want to come in here and (lose). Then you're kind of like, 'Oh, was that all just magic in the first half?' " Howell said. "We knew it wasn't. But it helps to get the first one out of the way. Now the streak's over. All the talk is over, all the negativity. Now we can focus on day to day."

Said Balfour: "Hopefully, we can get it going now … and win seven."

Joe Smith can be reached at j[email protected]

Rays end skid by beating Blue Jays 2-1 07/18/08 [Last modified: Sunday, July 20, 2008 8:02am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Road to Atlanta: Tell us how you really feel, Jimbo


    Topped out

    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 21:  Rashaan Evans #32 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tackles Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) 775042495
  2. Journal: USF gets support on the road


    NEW ORLEANS — Perhaps it was the chance to witness the first USF-Tulane game ever, or an opportunity to frolic in the French Quarter for a weekend. Or both.

    USF running back D'Ernest Johnson (2) stiff-arms Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson (17) on a run during the second half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH111
  3. Joey Knight's takeaways from USF-Tulane


    1. Saturday's triumph will do little to fortify USF's strength of schedule, but its strength-of-character quotient might have increased. On the road facing an eclectic offense, the Bulls built a huge lead, then made critical plays in the waning moments after some defensive lapses. In short, they survived. Isn't …

    South Florida defensive end Greg Reaves (41) reacts after a defensive stop against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH107
  4. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  5. Lightning journal: Tighter defense fuels hot start

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — See what happens when you keep the crease clean, limit the traffic in front of G Andrei Vasilevskiy and limit Grade A scoring chances?

    Yanni Gourde, right, gets a late first-period goal that follows a big save by Andrei Vasilevskiy.