TORONTO — Colby Rasmus knew his two-strike bunt in the 10th inning was a gutsy move. But it proved to be a good one.
Three batters later, Jose Reyes hit a two-out, walk-off single off Jeff Beliveau to plate Rasmus from second and give the Toronto Blue Jays a wild 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in a game played under protest at Rogers Centre on Saturday.
Rasmus, who was hitless in 10 previous at-bats versus Rays’ reliever Joel Peralta, dribbled a perfect bunt down the third base line to lead off the inning, and stole second as Munenori Kawasaki struck out for the second out of the frame.
“I was just playing baseball, letting my instincts work and just playing the game,” Rasmus said of the daring play. “I felt it would be a good time to try to get a bunt down, maybe to get something started. …
“I hadn’t had much success off of (Peralta) in the past so I figured I’d try a little bit different. I was just playing, trying to do the best I could.”
Rasmus’ best was just what the Blue Jays needed after losing 8-0 to Tampa Bay the night before in a game that seemed to lack emotion from the home dugout.
On Saturday, the Blue Jays showed fight, giving up leads of 2-1 and 4-3 but battling back both times.
Rasmus’ run came an inning after Tampa pinch hitter James Loney tied the game 4-4 with an RBI single off Toronto closer Casey Janssen in the top of the ninth.
“I think yesterday we didn’t have any energy. Today was a lot better,” said Reyes, who had two hits and a run scored on the night. “It’s even better when you have a W and hopefully we can win the series tomorrow.”
Though scored as a victory for now, there is a possibility that the Blue Jays’ win may not hold up.
Rays manager Joe Maddon declared his team was playing the game under protest after Toronto won an instant replay challenge that overturned a safe call in the fourth inning. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons argued that starter Mark Buehrle had picked off Wil Myers, who had originally been called safe at first base.
Myers was ruled out after nearly a three-minute delay. Maddon argued that Buehrle was already on the mound and the next batter, Yunel Escobar, was in the box when Gibbons issued his challenge.
Should the league determine that the Rays’ chances of winning the game were affected by the umpire’s call, the game will be re-played from the fourth inning.
“Umpires are trying to get it right,” said Gibbons. “If it’s that close, they’ve been looking at some plays like that … There’s close plays on pickoffs all the time. But I thought they did the right thing. It turned out going in our favour.
“They’ve been doing that more and more, you know. If there’s a little time difference, violation, whatever you want to call it, they still want to get it right.”
Crew chief Bob Davidson said after the game he didn’t feel Gibbons’ challenge came too late.
“If I felt it was too late, then it would have been too late, and if Gibbons wanted to file a protest on that he probably could have, I don’t know,” Davidson said. “I thought it was extremely close but I saw Gibbons coming out of the dugout and Escobar might have just gotten into the box, but I thought by the time Gibbons was starting to come out, I thought by that rule it was still on time, barely, to file a challenge.”
Maddon saw things differently.
“It was inappropriate for Bob to do what he did and permit that to happen,” Maddon said of the crew chief’s decision to honour Gibbons’ challenge. “I’m trusting that they’re going to interpret the rule properly and get us back to that point in the game.”
Dioner Navarro hit a two-run homer for the Jays (66-63), while left-fielder Melky Cabrera had two hits and an RBI. Dustin McGowan (5-3) picked up the win after pitching a scoreless top of the 10th.
Buehrle lasted 6 1-3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out two batters in the no-decision.
The left-hander ran into trouble in the seventh inning. With the Jays up 2-1, Buehrle walked Escobar to put runners on first and second with one out before giving up a game-tying single to Rays catcher Jose Molina, and a double to Sean Rodriguez to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.
Rookie Aaron Sanchez replaced the 35-year-old Buehrle at that point, and struck out two over his 1 2-3 innings pitched.
“I think physically and health-wise, the way I’ve been feeling, this is obviously a positive,” Buehrle said. “Obviously the results haven’t been there but you’re going to go through some tough stretches and some good stretches throughout the year. This is one of those funks I was in.
“Today wasn’t the worst game but you know, when we’re up 2-1 and you try to get through that inning, I wasn’t able to. So, just build off this and just continue. We have a month left, six or seven starts left and I’m doing everything I can to finish off the season strong and see what happens.”
Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist had two hits and an RBI apiece for the Rays (63-66) while Peralta (2-4) took the loss. Jeremy Hellickson started the game and went 6 1-3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out eight in the no-decision.
The Blue Jays took a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning on Navarro’s 10th homer of the season, which scored himself along with Edwin Encarnacion, who started the rally with a one-out double down the left-field line.
The Rays opened the scoring in the third inning when a two-out bunt by Zobrist cashed in Rodriguez from third base.
But Toronto got the run right back and then some in the bottom of the third. Danny Valencia walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch from Hellickson, then scored on a double from Reyes. Cabrera made it 2-1 with another double to score Reyes from second.
The Blue Jays’ first run snapped a streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings against the Rays. Cabrera’s hits, meanwhile, were his 163rd and 164th of the season. He trails only Houston’s Jose Altuve for the major league lead.
NOTES: RHP Sergio Santos was recalled from triple-A Buffalo after the game. The team announced that a corresponding roster move would be made Sunday. … Attendance was 37,451 … Buehrle’s outing was his 455th consecutive start, the longest active streak in the majors. … RHP Brandon Morrow was scheduled to throw a live BP session in Dunedin, Fla., on Saturday. The starting pitcher has been on the DL since early May with a torn tendon sheath in his right index finger. … The Blue Jays close out the three-game series against the Rays on Sunday. Right-hander Drew Hutchison (8-11, 4.81 earned-run average) starts for Toronto while Tampa Bay counters with right-hander Chris Archer (8-6, 3.17 ERA).