TORONTO — The Rays played the Blue Jays again Tuesday, won again and had a good time doing so again.
The 4-0 victory was the Rays' 13th in the last 15 games, improving them to 12 games over .500 at 75-63 and, with Oakland's late loss to the Yankees, moving them to within seven games of the second AL wild-card spot (six in the loss column), with 24 games remaining, including three against the A's at the Trop.
Seven pitchers combined to post the Rays' 12th shutout, the defense was again tidy and the offense its usually recently resourceful self.
"Our pitching has been dominant,'' CF Kevin Kiermaier said. "We have guys locked in at the plate right now. We're moving base to base, and being very efficient right now. I can't express how much fun I'm having putting this jersey on with these guys every night.''
"This stretch seems really easy,'' 3B Matt Duffy said. "We're really jelling in here as well. Everything is really clicking on cylinders. It's really, really fun to be a part of.''
The Rays scratched out a run in the second on a Kiermaier single, two bunts a ground out, then added three in the seventh, with the key hits a pinch-double by Ji-Man Choi, a triple by Tommy Pham and a Duffy single.
RHP Ryne Stanek opened for the Rays for the second straight day (matching RHP Sergio Romo's May 19-20 feat at the launch of the opener stratagem), then the Rays ran through RHP Hunter Wood (two innings), LHP Jalen Beeks (22/3), LHP Jose Alvarado (one-third), RHP Diego Castillo (two), LHP Adam Kolarek (one-third) and Romo (two-thirds), in his first action since Aug. 25.
Beeks was slated for more, but manager Kevin Cash said "he had done his job" and they wanted Alvarado to face Justin Smoak (walk) and Kendrys Morales (strike out). "Jalen Beeks, that was awesome,'' Cash said. "Really, really efficient.''
The Rays improved to 9-2 against the Jays, with eight more games against them.
Awards for Smith, Snell
• OF Mallex Smith was named the Rays nominee for MLB's prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, given annually to the player who best represents the game "through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field." Smith, who has read to kids, spoken to students and worked with the Big Brothers Big Sisters group among others, said it was "humbling just to be in the same sentence as Roberto Clemente.'' Also, that helping others is the least he can do. "A village raised me,'' he said. "Besides my parents and my brother and sisters I had a whole bunch of people throwing their little two cents in to me and it helped me to be who I am today. If I don't return the favor I haven't done nothing.'' Each team has a nominee with the overall winner named during the World Series.
• LHP Blake Snell was voted the American pitcher of the month after going 4-0, 1.04 in five August starts, and gets a trophy with the honor. "It's cool,'' Snell said. "It's cool that I had a good month.'' But otherwise, that award gets the same treatment as questions about his thoughts on winning 20 games or the Cy Young Award — wait until after the season to discuss. "I've got to focus on finishing the season strong, winning these games and trying to get a wild-card spot,'' he said. "We've got a long ways to go but I think we can do it and that's what I'm more focused on.'' Only four Rays previously won the monthly honor, RHP Chris Archer last in July 2013.
C Adam Moore rejoined the Rays on Tuesday in Toronto, after going from Cleveland to Tampa Bay and then to Miami to get a new passport. He missed Monday's game and was placed on the restricted list because the one he had with him was expired and he couldn't find the current one. Because the Rays added rookie C Nick Ciuffo to the 40-man roster they had to create space to reinstate Moore, so INF Daniel Robertson was moved to the 60-day DL, ending any chance of his returning before the end of the season from thumb surgery.
The Rays-1 team managed by Esteban Gonzalez won the franchise's first Dominican Summer League championship on Tuesday, beating the Rangers-1 in the best-of-five finals. Rookie-level Princeton lost 7-4 Tuesday to Elizabethton (Twins) in the opener of the best-of-three Appalachian League finals; RHP Shane Baz starts Game 2 Wednesday. … Three other Rays affiliates open playoff series Wednesday: Triple-A Durham in best-of-five International League play vs. Toledo (Tigers) with RHP Ryan Weber on the mound; Double-A Montgomery in best-of-five Southern League play vs. Jackson (D-backs); short-season A Hudson Valley in best-of-three NY-Penn League play vs. Auburn (Nationals).
• OF Tommy Pham, who has a 10-game hitting streak, left the game with a groin issue and is expected to sit outWednesday and return Friday.
• Cash said Romo was "fine" and the reason he hadn't pitched since Aug. 25 was a product of the matchups not being right. Apparently they were Tuesday, and he got his 19th save.
• RHP Jake Faria was activated after being called up from Triple-A Durham and will get to pitch, though Cash they hadn't decided if he would start or be used behind an opener. "This is a big month for Jake,'' Cash said.