TORONTO (AP) -- After stumbling into the All-Star break, the Tampa Bay Rays are back in stride.
Carlos Pena homered, Edwin Jackson won consecutive starts for the first time since April and the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 on Wednesday, completing a 4-3 road trip."This game was definitely big for us," outfielder B.J. Upton said. "To get to where we want to be, we've got to be able to win one-run ballgames."The Rays won for the fourth time in six road games after losing seven straight away from home."That's a great road trip right there," Pena said. "We're really happy about that. It's going to be a fun plane ride back."By winning two of three in Kansas City before coming to Toronto, the Rays gave manager Joe Maddon just what he wanted."If I had one thing in the back of my mind before we left it was to just win the road trip somehow," Maddon said. "You're always looking for those little growth moments and that may be one."Tampa Bay lost seven straight before the break, including six in a row on the road, but has gone 8-5 since."We're getting the same quality pitching, better defense and a timely hit or two," Maddon said. "It's kind of what we looked like when things were going well in the first half."Jackson (7-7) gave up two runs and seven hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out three."At this time of the season, every win is an important one," Jackson said. "You never know, it could be a win today that makes the difference a couple of months down the road."The right-hander had not won consecutive starts since his first two outings of the season."He showed what he was made of tonight," Carl Crawford said of Jackson. "He got out of some tough jams and the bullpen came in and held on to it for him."Four Tampa Bay relievers each worked a scoreless inning to preserve the victory. J.P Howell pitched the sixth, Grant Balfour struck out a pair in the seventh, Dan Wheeler handled the eighth and Troy Percival wrapped it up in the ninth for his 23rd save in 25 opportunities.It was the 347th save of Percival's career, tying him with Randy Myers for eighth on the all-time list. Next up is Jeff Reardon with 367."I've just got to set my sights on whoever is next," Percival said.Making his major-league debut, Blue Jays right-hander Scott Richmond (0-1) allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings."I like how he handled himself out there," manager Cito Gaston said. "He did a good job as far as I'm concerned. He deserves another start."After Crawford put Tampa Bay in front by tripling home Upton in the first, Lyle Overbay's two-run homer in the bottom half put Toronto up 2-1. The homer was Overbay's seventh.Pena tied it with a leadoff homer in the fourth, his 18th. Eric Hinske followed with a double, moved up on Dioner Navarro's single and scored when Gabe Gross hit into a 6-4-3 double play.Overbay's homer was the first and only hit the Blue Jays would get with runners in scoring position. They went 0-for-9 in such opportunities over the final eight innings."We had a chance today but once again it's the same old thing that's been going on here all year: guys on third base and we can't get them in with less than two outs," Gaston grumbled.Adam Lind went no further after a leadoff triple in the fourth, and Alex Rios and Overbay came up empty with men at first and second in the fifth. Matt Stairs drew a two-out walk but Lind flied out.John McDonald and Joe Inglett had back-to-back two-out singles in the sixth, but Howell struck out Marco Scutaro to end the inning."We should have won that game 4-3," Gaston said. "That's one of the things we're still working on and keep talking to the guys to see what they're thinking about when they're up there in that situation because whatever it is, it's not too good."Scutaro started at third in place of Scott Rolen, who plans to skip some games and cut back on his batting practice while undergoing an "extensive" rehab program for his surgically repaired left shoulder. Rolen is in an 0-for-17 slump and is batting .163 (13-for-80) in July.
Crawford's triple was his fourth in five games. He leads the AL with nine. ... The Rays set a team record by winning their 21st series of the season. ... Tampa Bay outfielder Rocco Baldelli (fatigue) went 1-for-4 as the DH with Double-A Montgomery on Tuesday. Baldelli was scheduled to DH again Wednesday and take Thursday off before playing the outfield Friday. ... Richmond is the 14th native Canadian to play for the Blue Jays. Along with Stairs, Toronto had two Canadians in the starting lineup for the first time in the team's 32-year history.