Sunday, May 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays hang on to beat Blue Jays

TORONTO — With all Fernando Rodney did Tuesday, he figured he might as well aim high.

So after getting the final five outs in another tougher-than-it-needed-to-be 4-3 win over the Blue Jays, he took full aim at the top of the Rogers Centre with his imaginary celebratory arrow.

"Right through the roof," Rodney said. "You going to see (today) in the newspaper, when you wake up, you're going to see the hole."

Rodney basically had to save the Rays twice even though they took a comfortable early lead, got a solid six-plus-inning start from Alex Cobb and made a handful of dazzling defensive plays.

And still …

Rodney came in in relief of Joel Peralta with the bases loaded in the eighth — after substitute second baseman Ryan Roberts booted a double play ball — to face J.P. Arencibia, who beat him with a homer May 6, and got another ground ball to Roberts for an inning-ending double play.

Then he battled through a tense ninth that included a one-out ground rule double on a 101-mph fastball, a run-scoring wild pitch and a two-out walk to the No. 9 hitter before striking out Melky Cabrera, with the dangerous duo of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion looming, to get his first five-out save of the season.

"That's a part of the game, you help me out today, I help you out tomorrow," Rodney said. "That's why you keep your head up and keep going."

The Rays (24-21) had a lot to hold their heads up about, Cobb posting his seventh quality start in nine outings, Kelly Johnson and Desmond Jennings making highlight plays then hitting homers, Evan Longoria and James Loney each getting two more hits.

Plus shortstop Yunel Escobar made a series of key plays, including an athletic turn on the key eighth-inning double play.

"I really think Escobar's game was outstanding at shortstop," manager Joe Maddon said. "That was a big part of our win."

Cobb said it was probably his "worst stuff-wise game," specifically his lack of a good changeup, but he battled into the seventh, lifted after 107 pitches with Maddon saying he looked fatigued. "When you have a quality outing without your best stuff you're very pleased with that," said Cobb, now an impressive 5-2, 2.73.

Peralta has been the most consistent of the Rays relievers, but he didn't start well in the eighth with a 4-1 lead. He gave up a single to No. 9 hitter Munenori Kawasaki then walked Cabrera, bringing up Bautista and Encarnacion. He went 1-for-2, giving up a hard single to right to Bautista that made it 4-2 and striking out Encarnacion.

Still, he looked to be out of it when Adam Lind hit the grounder he wanted, but Roberts — who took over at second an inning earlier when Matt Joyce left with hamstring tightness — booted it so badly the Rays didn't even get one out.

Maddon went to Rodney against Arencibia, figuring he had the best chance to get the ground ball, and Rodney won this battle, with Roberts making the play this time.

The ninth was eventful too, but Rodney got through it for his ninth save and a big arrow shot.

"I got a chance tonight to do it," he said. "And I feel great."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

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