ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After struggling against Marco Estrada in the first five innings, the Tampa Bay Rays started to break through in the sixth and Matt Duffy came up with the big hit.
Duffy’s three-run double highlighted a five-run inning and the last-place Rays beat the AL East-leading Toronto Blue Jays for the second straight game, 7-5 on Saturday night.
The big outburst came against Estrada (8-7) after he allowed just two singles in the first five innings. Duffy’s double, the fifth hit of the sixth, missed being a grand slam by less than two feet.
“You need to find ways to stay in a game by grinding out at bats and stringing together good at bats,” Duffy said. “When you do that, you find yourself in a situation like that where you’ve got bases loaded, nobody out and nobody’s hit a ball hard yet.
“We found ourselves with opportunities and once you do that, you look to do damage.”
Rookie Blake Snell (5-7) got the win after giving up one run and two h’its while striking out seven in six innings.
Toronto’s lead in the division was trimmed to one-half game over Boston, which played at Oakland later Saturday.
When he began the sixth inning, Estrada had given up only two runs in 22 1/3 career innings at Tropicana Field. Bobby Wilson, Logan Forsythe, Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria opened the inning with consecutive singles. After a walk to Brad Miller brought in a second run, Duffy cleared the bases with a double to make it 5-1 and get Estrada out of the game.
“That last inning, a bloop hit, I couldn’t make the play on a bunt, next thing you know it’s 5-1,” Estrada said. “I’m not really sure what happened. Just kind of got out of hand.”
“That inning got away in a hurry,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “Marco was rolling right along and then bam! They piled on right there.”
Kiermaier made it 7-1 with a two-run home run off reliever Joe Blagini in the seventh.
Toronto rallied for four runs in the ninth off Enny Romero before Alex Colome got the final out for his 30th save.
Forsythe had three of the Rays’ 13 hits and scored twice.
Estrada gave up five runs and seven hits in five-plus innings, striking out six.
BAD SPOT FOR BLUE JAYS
The Blue Jays will have to win their remaining four games against the Rays to win their season series for only the second time in the last 11 years. Toronto is 6-9 against Tampa Bay and 25-16 against the rest of the AL East. The Blue Jays are 31-61 at Tropicana Field since 2006.
OF Steven Souza Jr., who has struck out 144 times in 105 games, was out of the Rays’ lineup for the fourth time in five games. “We have an opportunity here this last month to see some guys play,” manager Kevin Cash said. “To be honest with you, the guys that are in there (Nick Franklin, Corey Dickerson) are really producing.”
Blue Jays: RHP Gavin Floyd (strained right shoulder) hopes to throw off a mound soon. He started a throwing program three weeks ago.
Rays: RHP Chase Whitley (Tommy John surgery) will likely make his final minor league start Sunday for Double-A Montgomery. He is 2-0 with a 1.09 ERA over eight previous outings.
Blue Jays: J.A. Happ (17-4) will try to become only the second left-hander to win 18 games for the Blue Jays. David Wells won 20 in 2000.
Rays: RHP Chris Archer (8-17), who leads the majors in losses and leads the AL with 202 strikeouts, has won three of his last five starts.