Back-to-back homers propel Devil Rays past Jays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The game between the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Toronto Blue Jays was delayed 10 minutes in the fourth inning due to power problems at Tropicana Field.

There has been no such power problem for the Devil Rays.

Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena hit consecutive solo shots in the sixth inning, and James Shields allowed four hits through seven to lead Tampa Bay past the Toronto 3-2 on Sunday.

The home runs by Crawford and Pena, added to the ninth-inning homer from Delmon Young and B.J. Upton's pinch-hit game-winner on Saturday, gave Tampa Bay its fourth straight series win -- the most since winning six in a row in June 2004.

The Devil Rays have won nine of their last 12 games and 12 of 16 since Aug. 24, hitting 32 homers and scoring 128 runs over that stretch. Their 169 home runs this season is second in the American League.

"This team, they're on a home run roll," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "They're hitting them, we weren't."

The loss dropped the Blue Jays 8˝ games back in the AL wild-card standings.

Crawford hit a solo shot to lead off the sixth, the drive hitting the "C" ring of the Tropicana Field catwalk. The homer, his sixth against the Blue Jays this season, tied the game at 2.

"You don't have to worry about me [hitting the catwalk] all the time," Crawford said. "I was going to take a triple, but I'm glad it hit it because usually when I hit it that high, it's an out."

Pena followed with his 38th home run, giving him 106 RBIs and tying him with former Devil Ray Fred McGriff for third on the franchise single-season list. He has hit 19 home runs at Tropicana Field this season, a franchise record.

"I know that sometimes you can overanalyze things," said Pena, who went 3-for-4. "But you've got to keep things simple like this."

Shields (12-8) gave up two runs and struck out five. The 25-year-old allowed no walks and hasn't walked more than one batter in 22 of his 30 starts this season.

"That's the kind of game you've come to expect from him," Devil Rays manager Maddon said. "Shieldsy, again, if you want a word, that's really just a typical performance from him."

Gibbons figured Shields wouldn't make for an easy afternoon.

"Shields is one of the better pitchers in the league," Gibbons said. "Shields handled us pretty good."

Al Reyes picked up his 23rd save in 25 opportunities.

Jesse Litsch (5-8), a Devil Rays bat boy from 2000-02, pitched five-plus innings and gave up three runs -- all solo homers -- and seven hits while striking out five. Litsch was replaced by Brian Wolfe, who got center fielder Young to ground into a 5-4-3 double play.

"It was definitely a battle," Litsch said. "I knew I was going to have to battle through it. That's pretty much what I did all game."

Devil Rays second baseman Brendan Harris homered to lead off the second inning and put the Devil Rays up 1-0. Three of his 10 homers this season have come against the Blue Jays.

"Ten home runs for the season is quite an accomplishment for him," Maddon said. "We would have never imagined that in spring
training. But he comes into camp, and you can just see that this is
just a gritty guy."

An RBI grounder by center fielder Vernon Wells tied the game at one in the third and Aaron Hill hit a solo shot in the fifth to put Toronto on top.

Game notes

Crawford, the Devil Rays' lone All-Star, is 22-for-61 with 14 RBIs against the Blue Jays. ... Toronto 1B Lyle Overbay was held out of the lineup Sunday but pinch hit in the ninth. Overbay is in an 0-for-19 slump. ... 1B Matt Stairs snapped an eight-game hitting streak, going 0-for-3. ... The Devil Rays purchased the contract of INF Jorge Velandia from Triple-A Durham.