Souza provides spark as Rays stay hot, edge Blue Jays
Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo homer in the first inning and scored the winning run in the eighth as the Rays edged the Blue Jays, 3-2, on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre for their fourth straight win.
Souza crushed his first home run of the season off Blue Jays starter Daniel Norris, sending the first pitch to the third deck in straightaway center field for an early 1-0 Rays lead.
The Rays scored again in the second and held a two-run advantage until the fourth, when the Jays rallied to tie it on the strength of three singles and a double.
It remained that way until the eighth, when Souza was at it again. He led off with a bunt single against reliever Miguel Castro before stealing second, advancing to third on error and scoring the winning run on a Desmond Jennings sac fly.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Big Boy homer: Souza began Tuesday night with a .158 batting average, no home runs and just two RBIs. The slow start did not stop the Rays' rookie outfielder from teeing off on Norris in the first. Souza knew he got it, too, watching briefly before starting around the bases. The ball cleared the 400-foot mark in center field and traveled a total distance of 463 feet, according to ESPN. More >
Turf a factor in Blue Jays' rally:Jose Reyes' game-tying double in the fourth died in the right-center-field gap, allowing Rays outfielders to cut off the ball before it reached the wall. That ultimately held up the go-ahead run at third base as the two sides entered the fifth tied at 2. Toronto manager John Gibbons and several of his players remarked before the game that the new turf at Rogers Centre was noticeably slower and more likely to be a drag on grounders and hard shots to the outfield. More >
Kiermaier's catch:Kevin Kiermaier did not start against left-hander Daniel Norris, but he did make a major impact while playing center field in the ninth. With one out and the Rays clinging to a one-run lead, Devon Travis hit a ball to deep center field. Kiermaier took off, found the wall and at the last instant made a leaping catch to rob Travis of extra bases.
Small ball: Souza went from power threat to rally starter when he dropped down a bunt single to start the seventh against the hard-throwing Castro. One out later, Souza took off to steal second. Catcher Russell Martin's throw sailed into center field, which allowed Souza to move to third. Jennings' sacrifice fly drove him home to give the Rays a 3-2 lead.
Martin has rough night: Besides Martin's crucial throwing error in the eighth, his struggles at the plate also continued. He was 0-for-4, extending his hitless slump to 21 at-bats. He hasn't recorded a hit since Opening Day vs. the Yankees. More >
QUOTABLE "I just have to tip my cap. He was sitting first-pitch fastball. If I missed my spot it was by a couple of inches and he hit it about 700 feet." -- Norris, on the first-inning home run by Souza that went into the Sightlines restaurant in straightaway center field
"The ball that Souza hit, I've seen a lot of baseball games here. And that has got to be the furthest ball I've seen hit." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Over the past 38 innings, Tampa Bay starters have surrendered only five earned runs while limiting opposing hitters to just 14 hits.
The Blue Jays' bullpen had its scoreless-innings streak snapped at 12 2/3 innings after giving up a run in the eighth.
REPLAY REVIEW Cash challenged a call that ruled Jennings out at second on a stolen-base attempt in the sixth. Martin's throw from behind the plate beat Jennings to second, but the baserunner appeared to elude the tag. After a one-minute, 41-second review, it was decided that the ruling on the field would stand and Jennings was out.
Rays: Facing the need for a fifth starter for the first time, the Rays named righty Erasmo Ramirez the starter for Wednesday's 7:07 p.m. ET game at Rogers Centre. Ramirez was acquired for left-hander Mike Montgomery on March 31 in a trade with the Mariners. He has made just one appearance, allowing seven earned runs in a two-inning relief stint against the Marlins on Friday night.
Blue Jays: Veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle takes the mound for the third game of the series Wednesday. Buehrle is fresh off his 200th win, which he earned against the Orioles last week. The 36-year-old is 10-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 28 career appearances against the Rays. In 2014, he registered a 2-0 record in six starts against Tampa Bay.