TORONTO — RHP Fernando Rodney hadn’t pitched in six days when he entered Sunday’s game in the eighth inning with runners at first and second, two outs and the Rays leading by three runs
The rust showed, as Rodney allowed a pair of singles and a walk to load the bases and bring the Blue Jays to within a run.
“I come in and tried to bring my best I have,” Rodney said. “Tried to throw strikes, make good pitch, tried to get ground ball, tried to strike out, tried everything.”
Rodney escaped the eighth with a strikeout, then pitched around a leadoff single in the ninth to record his 37th save of the season in the Rays’ 7-6, live-to-play-another-day victory.
Rodney was the third member of the bullpen to struggle, following LHP Jake McGee (one run in one inning) and RHP Joel Peralta (two runs in 1ß innings).
“I’m confident all the time, but you know, that’s baseball,” Rodney said of his 33-pitch, 1ß-inning outing. “It’s difficult. Sometimes you go there and you make (outs) on one pitch, sometimes you have to throw 30, 25 pitch, but more important we win the game.”
LHP Matt Moore, who went 5ß innings to earn his 17th win of the season, paced the clubhouse along with manager Joe Maddon as Rodney recorded the final four outs.
“Whichever at-bat was going good, I kind of stayed with that TV and then I’d walk to the next one,” Moore said. “At the same time, I knew Fernando was going to come through and that we were going to wind up winning the game.”
Turning a crucial two
Peralta replaced McGee in the seventh inning with runners at second and third and the Rays up by three and promptly walked RF Moises Sierra, the first batter he faced.
Peralta escaped the jam with help from SS Yunel Escobar and 1B James Loney.
Escobar fielded a ground ball by pinch-hitter Adam Lind, beat Sierra to the bag and threw to Loney. The ball was in the dirt, and Loney was able to scoop it and keep his foot on first base while falling on his stomach.
“It was just a reaction play I made,” Escobar said through LHP Cesar Ramos. “I got it, and I saw (2B Ben Zobrist) was too far and I just reacted and sprinted to second and Loney helped me out scooping the ball.”
Maddon called it a “tremendous” play.
“You have to have magic occur to win these kinds of things,” Maddon said. “You have to have that magic pixie dust sprinkled on you at some point to get to that last game of the season and win it.”
Tell him what you really mean
Maddon slowly walked to the mound after Peralta walked Sierra in the eighth inning with no intention of talking to Peralta and every intention of getting thrown out of the game.
“I had enough. I had enough. I had enough. Uncle, at some point,” Maddon said of his frustration with home-plate umpire Paul Schrieber’s strike zone.
So when Schrieber walked to the mound to break up the meeting, Maddon walked toward Schrieber with a profanity-laced complaint.
“I (told the players), ‘Listen, that’s it. I’m out of this game. I know you guys are going to be fine. I’m going to watch the rest of this game with a glass of wine in my hand, and we’re going to win it,’ ” Maddon said, and that’s what he did.
It was Maddon’s fifth ejection of the season and 32nd as the Rays’ manager.
The Rays batted around in the first inning for the first time since they did it May 8 against the Blue Jays. The six runs were the most in the first inning since Sept. 10, 2010, against the Jays at the Rogers Centre.
Loney drove in the first run when he singled home Wil Myers. Evan Longoria had an RBI double. Delmon Young kept the inning alive with a two-out, full-count single up the middle that chased RHP Todd Redmond.
Jose Lobaton had a two-run double, and Escobar finished the scoring with an RBI single.
Moore said Sunday’s start was a little different than his Game 1 start in the 2011 ALDS at Texas, especially since this time he was handed a 6-0 first-inning lead.
The Rays cruised to a 9-0 win that day. Sunday’s was a heart-pounding, down-to-the-last-out victory.
“All the high blood pressure, you can feel your heart pumping through your shirt, it was worth it,” Moore said. “It makes the moment a little more special coming in here after a game like that. If we just kind of had slammed the door and won 7-0 it probably wouldn’t have felt the same.”
CF Desmond Jennings (hamstring) said he can run a little harder but not hard enough to play the outfield. Maddon doesn’t know how soon Jennings can return to his position if the Rays advance tonight. … Maddon said the team will make an announcement on RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) today. It’s unlikely Crain will pitch for the Rays. … OF Sam Fuld’s wife Sarah, gave birth Sunday morning to the couple’s third child — a boy they named William. … OF David DeJesus was all smiles Sunday, because the Rays have a chance to reach the playoffs and because his wife Kim stars in the new season of “Amazing Race,” which premiered Sunday night. “The DeJesus household is on fire,” he said before the game. … If the Rays harbor any resentment of the fact Rangers RF Nelson Cruz can return tonight from his 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, they hid it well Sunday. Said Maddon: “Whatever the rule is, that’s what we abide by. I’m not going to cry about it. That’s how it’s written up.” Said Longoria: “If he’s served his suspension, it is what it is. Justice has been served.”