TORONTO — How many times did Joe Maddon say earlier this month that the Rays needed to produce enough runs to take the heat off a struggling starter? One? Two? More than that.
And here they are, putting up 11 runs during the first two nights in Toronto and now hoping to avoid a sweep tonight in the series finale.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Maddon said. “They’re good right now. Instead of denigrating our guys, give them a little credit.”
The Jays teed off on Alex Cobb in the fifth inning to break open a close game on their way to a 9-6 victory at Rogers Centre.
“They kind of just outslugged us,” Maddon said. “Heavyweight match. They won on cuts, I think.”
The Rays scored four times against Jays starter Mark Buehrle and added a pair of runs against the bullpen and all they could do was keep it close.
“The hitting’s getting hot. The pitching’s got to stay hot with it,” Cobb said. “You know we can’t take time off from each other. We both have to start clicking at the same time. The past two nights haven’t gone that way.”
The Rays lost 10-5 on Monday when the Jays handed Erik Bedard his worst loss of the season. The Jays kept it up Tuesday, handing Cobb the roughest outing of his injury-interrupted season.
Making his second start since returning from a strained left oblique, Cobb allowed a season-high six runs on a season-high nine hits. Maddon thought Cobb had outstanding stuff. Cobb, not so much.
“It was a coin flip stuff-wise,” Cobb said. “I can say first three innings it was not as good as it was when they started hitting the ball. That’s just a team making adjustments and seeing how I’m attacking them. You know they’re hot right now. Sometimes you have to not look too much into something and understand that these are big-league hitters at the top of their game and they’re hot right now.”
The game was tied at 2 in the fifth when Jose Reyes hit Cobb on the outside of Cobb’s upper right thigh with a line drive. Cobb threw four warm-up pitches while he tried to regain the feeling in his leg.
Reyes advance to second on a ground out and scored when Jose Bautista singled on a 3-0 pitch.
Adam Lind followed with a two-run homer to give the Jays a three-run lead, and Edwin Encarnacion followed with another of his towering homers to left field. It was the first time in 19 starts that Cobb allowed more than one home run.
Cobb said the line drive off his thigh had little to do with what followed.
“Honestly, no,” he said. “I’d love to blame it on something but it was really good hitters hitting good pitches.”
Cobb said he threw a backdoor curveball to Lind. It was the pitch he wanted to throw in the location he wanted to throw it, and Lind lifted it over the wall in left-center field.
“It’s a good pitch. It’s not a pitch that usually gets hit out,” Cobb said. “The fastball in to Encarnacion was off the plate up, exactly where you want to put it on a guy like him. Somehow he kept his hands in and put it in the third deck, which is more impressive if I wasn’t pitching it.”
The Rays took a two-run lead in the top of the fourth when Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe reached on singles. Sean Rodriguez doubled home Longoria, and Forsythe scored when Wil Myers grounded to Reyes and the shortstop caught an over-aggressive Rodriguez trying to cross to third base.
The Jays tied the score in the bottom of the inning on two-out singles by Brett Lawrie and Dioner Navarro.
Those two runs were the first Cobb allowed since his first start of the season and snapped his franchise record streak of scoreless innings by a starter at 242⁄3.
“There’s no break in their lineup right now,” Maddon said.
And once the order turned over for the Jays, the big hitters went to work on Cobb.
“They’re kind of hot right now,” Maddon said. “They’re hitting the ball far. They’re missing our defenders. They’re toasty on offense. You have to give them credit.”
The first-place Jays extended their winning streak to eight with the victory. The Ray are left hoping to salvage one game of this series.
“Actually,” Maddon said, “taking one out of three right now sounds very enticing, so I’ll take it. Sometimes you got compliment the other side.”