TORONTO — Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays are stumbling in September.
Drew Smyly pitched 5 2/3 innings to remain unbeaten at Rogers Centre, Alexei Ramirez and Steven Souza Jr. hit home runs and the Tampa Bay Rays beat Toronto 6-2 on Tuesday night.
Russell Martin had a two-run shot, but Toronto lost for the eighth time in 11 September games.
Toronto can’t afford many more losses. The Blue Jays are tied with the Orioles for the AL wild-card spots and two games behind Boston in the East.
“We’re in September and we’re at the point where we need to be getting wins, so it’s frustrating,” Stroman said. “Just wash it and get to the next one but at the end of it we need to start winning games here.”
Stroman (9-8) allowed three runs and four hits in six innings, falling to 0-3 this month. He’s winless in five starts since a home victory over Houston on Aug. 14.
“I thought he was good,” manager John Gibbons said. “We just came up short.”
Martin said Stroman deserved a better fate.
“He threw the ball well,” Martin said. “I don’t really care what the stats say.”
Toronto has lost seven of their last 11 games against the Rays. They’re 8-10 against Tampa Bay with one game remaining, and have lost eight of the past nine season series.
The Blue Jays were without reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson for the second straight game. Donaldson is day to day with a sore right hip and hopes to return Wednesday.
Toronto has scored three runs or fewer in six of its past eight. They loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Edwin Encarnacion struck out against Danny Farquhar.
“I elevated a fastball and luckily he swung,” Farquhar said.
Ramirez hit a three-run homer off Stroman in the fifth and Souza drilled a solo shot off Joe Biagini in the seventh.
Ramirez’s home run was his first since signing with Tampa Bay after being released by San Diego earlier this month. His previous homer, on Aug. 15, was a solo shot off Smyly at Tampa Bay when Ramirez was still with the Padres.
“When he came over here I was like ‘I know you remember that home run off me'” Smyly said. “He’s a good hitter, man. He’s been around for 10 years.”
Smyly (7-11) came in 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA at Rogers Centre in five appearances, including three starts. He allowed two runs and five hits.
“That’s a really tough lineup,” Smyly said. “Every time you face them, you know you have to be on point, you have to be commanding the ball well.”
DRAWING A CROWD
The crowd of 38,338 put Toronto over the three-million mark for the sixth time in franchise history and the first time since 1993. The Blue Jays have averaged an AL-best 41,460 this season. They have eight home games remaining.
The Rays have hit at least one home run in 16 of their 18 meetings with the Blue Jays this season.
Blue Jays: Gibbons said Donaldson jammed his hip when he stepped on first base in Sunday’s loss to Boston. The three-time All-Star third baseman is stuck in a career-worst seven game hitless streak. He’s 0 for 23 with seven strikeouts in that span.
Rays RHP Alex Cobb (0-0, 4.09) starts against Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (8-8, 3.68) in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale. Cobb will make his third start since returning from elbow surgery. He’s 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two career starts at Toronto. Estrada lasted a season-low 2 1/3 innings in Friday’s loss to Boston.