Blue Jays’ slow start to September continues with loss to Rays

Drew Smyly earned the win to remain unbeaten at the Rogers Centre and the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays.

TORONTO — Russell Martin couldn’t complain about Marcus Stroman‘s pitches on Tuesday night.

There was one he would have liked to have back, though.

With runners on first and second in the fifth inning, Stroman threw a 93 mile-per-hour two-seam fastball to Alexei Ramirez that the Tampa Bay shortstop hit over the wall to give the Rays a 3-0 lead. They never looked back en route to a 6-2 victory over the struggling Toronto Blue Jays.

"That’s really the story of the day, that one pitch," Martin said.

"Just a two-seamer, maybe overthrown a little bit. … You could throw that pitch 9-out-of-10 times and maybe get more sink on it, get a ground ball and we’re out of the inning. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case right there."

Steven Souza Jr., also homered for the Rays (61-83), Logan Forsythe had an RBI and Drew Smyly (7-11) went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits with one walk and four strikeouts to hand Toronto it’s eighth loss in 11 games.

The Blue Jays opened their September schedule by losing three consecutive series for the first time this season, slipping down the AL East standings in the process. They could lose a fourth straight series with a defeat in Wednesday afternoon’s finale.

Toronto and Baltimore are tied for the first AL wild card after the Orioles beat Boston 6-3 on Tuesday. Both clubs are two games back of the Red Sox for top spot in the division.

Stroman knows things need to change if the Blue Jays want to make the post-season for a second straight year.

"My stuff feels great, but we’re in September and we’re at the point where we need to be getting wins so it’s frustrating," he said. "We need to start winning games here.

"The whole morale of the team is confident, we just have to go out there and do it."

Stroman (9-8) allowed three runs on four hits with four strikeouts and four walks over six innings. The outing snapped his streak of 12 consecutive starts with two walks or less.

"I didn’t really think it was an issue," Martin said of the Stroman’s four free passes. "I thought he threw the ball well. I don’t really care what the stats say. The ball’s coming out good. Sinker was good, four-seamer was good, cutter was good. He’s throwing the ball well. I’m not going to try and find a reason."

Martin hit a two-run homer for the Blue Jays (79-65), his 18th of the season, in the sixth inning, and Devon Travis had a single in the seventh to extend his hit streak to a season-high 10 games.

Tampa responded to Martin’s homer with Souza Jr.’s in the top of the seventh. His 17th homer of the season — a solo shot to left-centre field — came off reliever Joe Biagini, who hadn’t allowed a home run in his first 49 appearances. He has given up three in his last four.

The Rays added two more runs in the ninth. Forsythe scored Dickerson from third with a force out off Scott Feldman and Souza Jr., scored on a wild pitch from Aaron Loup.

Tampa, at 10-8, clinched its eighth winning season versus Toronto in the last nine years.

"We sit back and wonder. I mean, that’s one of the best ball clubs in the league and we always play them tough," Souza Jr., said. "If we could harness that and play the rest of the league like that, we’d be a pretty god ball club."

The Blue Jays left seven men on base, including a bases-loaded situation in the seventh that ended with an Edwin Encarnacion strikeout by Danny Farquhar.

All-star third baseman Josh Donaldson sat out a second straight game with a hip injury. Manager John Gibbons said Donaldson jarred his right hip while running to first base in Sunday’s loss to Boston.

The Rogers Centre, which hosted 38,338 for Tuesday’s game, surpassed 3 million fans on the season for the first time since 1993 when Toronto last won a World Series and the stadium was still called SkyDome.

NOTES: Damian Warner of London, Ont., the Olympic bronze medallist in decathlon in Rio, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Canadian outfielder Dalton Pompey. … Smyly hasn’t lost a game since July 18 at Colorado, his first start after the all-star break.

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