TORONTO — Teoscar Hernandez and Santiago Espinal homered as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1 on Thursday night in the opener of a five-game series at Rogers Centre.
Yusei Kikuchi made his first quality start in over a month and Adam Cimber earned the save as Toronto won for the third time in four games.
Toronto (43-33) moved into a second-place tie with Boston in the American League East standings. Tampa Bay fell 2 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays and idle Red Sox, who occupy the top two AL wild-card spots.
Isaac Paredes hit a solo shot for the Rays (40-35), who have dropped three in a row. Toronto outhit Tampa Bay 9-5.
Kikuchi (3-4) allowed one earned run, four hits and a walk. He had eight strikeouts in his first victory since May 16.
Tampa Bay opener Matt Wisler worked a scoreless frame before handing the ball to Ryan Yarbrough, freshly recalled from Triple-A Durham. Yarbrough gave up an infield single to Alejandro Kirk in the second before Hernandez hit his eighth homer of the year.
Kikuchi didn't allow a hit until Yandy Diaz stroked a two-out single in the third inning. He was left stranded when Wander Franco struck out.
Tampa Bay halved the lead in the fourth when Paredes curled a solo shot just inside the left-field foul screen. It was his 11th home run of the season.
Kikuchi fanned Taylor Walls in the fifth inning for his 400th career strikeout. The left-hander gave up back-to-back singles in the sixth but third baseman Matt Chapman made two strong defensive plays to stifle the threat.
Chapman started a 5-3 double play and then short-hopped a Randy Arozarena grounder before making a strong throw to first base for the third out.
In the seventh inning, reliever Trent Thornton gave up a single to Vidal Brujan, who stole second and took third on a throwing error by rookie catcher Gabriel Moreno.
Chapman's defence came in handy again as he chased down a Francisco Mejia fly ball in foul territory to retire the side.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr., floated a single to right field in the bottom half of the frame before Espinal smacked his sixth homer of the year.
Yarbrough (0-4) allowed four earned runs, eight hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings.
David Phelps pitched the eighth inning for Toronto and Cimber picked up his fourth save. Announced attendance was 22,987 and the game took two hours 55 minutes to play.
This is the first time the Blue Jays have played a five-game series at Rogers Centre.
It's the 12th time that Toronto has played a series of at least five games in franchise history and it's the fourth such series to be played at home (the others were in 1977, '79 and '80 at Exhibition Stadium).
An extra game was tacked on to this week's series to include a game originally scheduled for April 4.
The Rays placed pitchers Brooks Raley and Ryan Thompson on the restricted list before the game. Right-handers Javy Guerra and Phoenix Sanders were added to the active roster from Triple-A Durham.
Tampa Bay also placed left-hander Jeffrey Springs on the family medical emergency list.
Right-handers are set to square off on Friday night. Jose Berrios (5-4, 5.86 earned-run average) will start against Tampa Bay's Corey Kluber (3-4, 3.45).
Neither team has confirmed starters for Saturday's doubleheader or the series finale Sunday afternoon.
Tampa Bay's Shane McClanahan (8-3, 1.77) and Toronto's Kevin Gausman (6-6, 2.93) will likely pitch Saturday but it's unclear whether they would start in the afternoon or evening.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.
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