Close one: Rays hang on to beat Blue Jays 9-8

Wow…with as many empty, blue seats as I saw in Toronto’s Rogers Centre, I almost forgot this was an away game. It reminded me so much of watching games televised from Tropicana Field.

It was clear from the start that the Tampa Bay Rays were not in the mood to mess around. B.J. Upton led off the first inning with a solid base hit but was thrown out at second on Jason Bartlett’s fielder’s choice. Bartlett scored easily on Carl Crawford’s triple; CC in turn crossed the plate on a base hit by Evan Longoria. Sean Rodriguez walked, following a Carlos Pena strikeout, and scored, along with Longoria, on a double By Rocco Baldelli. Rocco added another tally to Ben Zobrist’s home run. The Rays sent all nine men to the plate in the bottom of the first frame, giving Rays starter James Shields a six-run lead to play with.

Toronto cut the lead by a run in the home half of the first. Yunel Escobar reached on an error charged to Longoria and moved to second on a wild pitch by Shields. He scored on a base hit by Vernon Wells. Zobrist should have caught Escobar at home but his throw to catcher Kelly Shoppach was off-line.

Tampa Bay got that run back in the top of the second; Bartlett crossed the plate after doubling and moving to third when Crawford reached on error. Evan’s base hit to center allowed JB to score easily, giving Longo his second hit and second RBI in as many innings.

Toronto’s starter Brett Cecil was yanked after walking Baldelli to lead off the third. He had thrown a mere 54 pitches and failed to record an out in the frame. Manager Cito Gaston came out to deliver the bad news and reliever Josh Roenicke elicited a double play from Zobrist to erase the base runner. Shoppach struck out to end the frame. Shit… and I was just starting to like Cecil.