ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon talked before the game about how his hitters needed to do better at home. The Rays then responded in a big way -- with blasts, as well as bunts.
Robinson Chirinos hit his first major league homer and drove in four runs, James Shields pitched into the eighth inning and the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-1 on Wednesday night."We've got to get this one thing turned around and that's to play better offensively here while maintaining the rest of our game," Maddon said of the Rays, who entered 29th overall in runs scored at home. "Then we can make some noise."Tampa Bay started play 10 games back of the AL wild card-leading New York Yankees."Huge mountain," Maddon said. "But I'm not waving any white flags right now."Chirinos had a three-run shot off Carlos Villanueva (6-3) during a four-run third that put the Rays up 8-1. An inning earlier, he drove in a run with a bunt single.Shields (10-9) allowed one run and three hits in 7 1/3 innings. The right-hander struck out six and walked three.The AL All-Star was coming off a start last Wednesday where he gave up 10 runs over four innings in a 13-4 loss to Oakland.Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman also homered for the Rays, who are 7-11 over their last 18 games."The guys were sharp," Maddon said. "It just all came together."J.P. Arencibia homered for Toronto.Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had his third-inning pop fly caught by shortstop Sean Rodriguez for an out after the ball hit highest of four catwalks at Tropicana Field. It was the third ball since the stadium opened in 1998 that has struck the "A" ring, which is located around 185 feet above the infield.Villanueva gave up eight runs and nine hits over 2 2/3 innings. Toronto manager John Farrell said the team will talk about the innings worked this season by the right-hander, who has given up 20 earned runs over 19 2/3 innings in his last four starts."I think it's showing us that we've got take a closer look and discuss what our next steps are," Farrell said. "It's not to say that he's coming out of the rotation by any means, but we're well aware of late the lack of late action through the zone and that's a sign of fatigue."Zobrist hit a solo homer, Rodriguez bunted home a run, Chirinos drove in a run with his bunt hit and Johnny Damon added a sacrifice fly during a four-run second.Desmond Jennings followed Rodriguez and Chirinos with a third consecutive bunt, which resulted in a single."We got some bunts down and executed, and next thing you know, hitting is contagious," Shields said.Kotchman had a solo homer before Chirinos' drive in the third broke open the game."The small ball led to the big ball," Maddon said. "Chirinos' three-run home run was a big play in that game."Matt Joyce made it 9-1 with an RBI single in the seventh.Arencibia, who struck out in all four at-bats in the Blue Jays' 3-1 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, cut the deficit to 4-1 with his 18th homer of the season leading off the third. He has six homers in his last 10 games.Shields struck out Travis Snider with two on and two out in the second. He retired 11 in a row after allowing Arencibia's homer.With an announced crowd of 11,803, the Rays became the last AL team to surpass the one-million mark in home attendance this season. Florida is the lone NL team to not yet reach the mark.
The Blue Jays would like to get RHP Brandon Morrow around 175 innings this season. "Building block approach," Farrell said. Morrow (8-5) has worked 112 innings so far. ... Rays RHP Wade Davis (8-7), Thursday's scheduled starter, is 2-2 with a 2.80 ERA in five career starts against the Blue Jays. "They're aggressive swinging the bat," Davis said. ... Toronto LHP Brett Cecil (4-4) will look to win for the fourth time in his last six starts in Thursday's series finale. He is 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA over his last five starts, including two complete games. ... Toronto LHP Brian Tallet (chest) is nearing his first bullpen session.