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Rays top Jays, lock up winning road trip

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Published:   |   Updated: May 22, 2013 at 07:22 AM
TORONTO -

The last time they faced each other, May 6 at Tropicana Field, J.P. Arencibia hit a game-winning home run off Fernando Rodney. Despite that recent history, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't hesitate to call for Rodney on Tuesday with another game in the balance and Arencibia at the plate.

Oh, and there was only one out in the eighth inning and the bases were loaded and the Rays led by two. So, even if Rodney got his team out of that jam he still needed to get three more outs to preserve the victory.

And that's what happened.

Rodney got Arencibia to hit his first pitch into an inning-ending double play to end the eighth and created a little ninth-inning drama before shutting the door on the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rays hung on for a 4-3 victory Tuesday at Rogers Centre.

It was Rodney's first five-out save since Sept. 14 against the Yankees in New York. It was also his ninth save of the season.

"Yes, it was a good chance to bring me into the game and to face him," Rodney said. "Let him know I'm the same guy, make the same pitch maybe, more location, get the ground ball and get out of the inning."

The victory clinched a winning road trip for the Rays, who wrap the six-game, two-city trek this afternoon.

Kelly Johnson and Desmond Jennings each homered and Luke Scott had two RBIs, driving home Evan Longoria both times.

Longoria extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games. He's now reached base in a major league-high 44 games this season.

Alex Cobb allowed three hits and run over 6 1/3 innings for his fifth victory of the season.

"Alex was very good," Maddon said.

The Rays staked Cobb to a 4-0 lead with a pair of runs in both the second and third innings.

But the Jays remained in the game despite a heavy night for their bullpen.

The Rays chased Toronto starter Ramon Ortiz in the third inning, but four Jays relievers managed to shut down the Rays' bats.

It didn't hurt that the Jays bullpen induced 6-4-3 double plays to end the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

Going 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position didn't seem to be a problem when Maddon called for Jake McGee with one out in the seventh inning and a runner on second base, courtesy of a throwing error by Longoria.

McGee retired the next two batters to move the game to the eighth. That's Joel Peralta time, but the Rays setup man struggled.

He allowed a run and had runners on first and second after an RBI single by Jose Bautista. Peralta then struck out Edwin Encarnacion and got Adam Lind to hit a grounder to second baseman Ryan Roberts.

Roberts entered the game an inning earlier after right fielder Matt Joyce was pulled for precautionary reasons because of tightness in his right hamstring (Ben Zobrist moved from second base to right field).

It was a double play grounder but Roberts couldn't come up with the ball and everyone was safe.

With the tying run at second and Peralta's pitch count at 24, Maddon made the walk to the mound and called for Rodney.

"It's unusual for Joel to struggle in that moment, although he got the double play ground ball, too," Maddon said.

Despite their previous meeting, Maddon said he wanted Rodney to face Arencibia.

"Fernando is a better option, I think, to get a grounder for the double play," Maddon said.

And Rodney did that.

On the very first pitch.

Arencibia hit the ball right at Roberts, who didn't flub his second opportunity. Instead, it was the Jays' turn to end a rally with a double play.

"I've got no problem right there (with Arencibia swinging at the first pitch)," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "The closer's coming in. He hit a strike. He hit it right at the guy."

The Jays got a run off Rodney in the ninth and had the tying run on first base when he got Melky Cabrera to look at what was called a third strike by home plate umpire Dale Scott to end the game.

"That last pitch of the game, we're not going to make that an excuse," Gibbons said. "He's always been a pitcher's ump, and he did it for both sides. We benefited from that, too."

While it didn't look as pretty as his last save when he retired the Baltimore Orioles in order on 10 pitches, Rodney said he was pleased with his outing.

"I feel good," Rodney said about getting the last five outs. "(Tuesday) for the first time I feel great."

Maddon said getting Arencibia to hit into the double play on the first pitch essentially turned Rodney's save into a one-inning save.

"I don't think he's quite where he wants to be yet, but he's getting close," Maddon said.

As for Peralta, he picked up the team during the first night of the road trip when he got the last four outs in a victory against the Orioles. So Rodney said he could cut his friend some slack.

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


rmooney@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7227

Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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