ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. â€” Kendrys Morales has been a different player at Tampa Bay this season.
Morales had two late homers and drove in five runs, helping the Toronto Blue Jays rally from a three-run deficit to beat the Rays 8-4 on Friday night.
The switch-hitting slugger has three of his six homers and 10 of 20 RBIs this season in five games at Tropicana Field. He hit a two-run shot during the seventh inning and completed his 18th career multihomer game with a three-run drive off Jumbo Diaz (0-2) in a five-run eighth that put Toronto ahead 8-4.
“A couple of big shots that we needed,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We needed a win like that. We were due for something like that.”
Justin Smoak added a solo homer in the decisive eighth and finished with two RBIs for Toronto, which avoided becoming the major league’s first 20-loss team (10-19). The Blue Jays got their sixth win in 17 road games this season.
Aaron Loup (1-0) limited the Rays to one run after Tampa Bay loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh.
Daniel Robertson and Derek Norris each homered for the Rays. Chris Archer struck out 11 in six-plus innings.
“Not a ton to be said other than that is was kind of a tough loss,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Toronto’s Francisco Liriano had his third consecutive subpar outing at Tropicana Field, allowing three runs, five hits, five walks and hitting a batter in 3 2/3 innings.
“I couldn’t find my spots, couldn’t find my rhythm,” Liriano said.
Liriano gave up five runs, three hits and four walks over 1/3 of an inning during a start here April 7, and all three Rays the lefty faced in a relief appearance last Sept. 2 reached base.
Robertson and Norris hit consecutive solo shots before Steven Souza Jr. made it 3-0 later in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk that ended Liriano’s night. Souza, who entered 1 for 15 with eight strikeouts, walked in all three plate appearances against Liriano.
Smoak had an RBI single in the fifth and Morales tied it at 3 on his two-run shot off Archer in the seventh. Morales had two hits in three at-bats against Archer and is 15 for 25 (.600) including three homers off the Rays ace.
“I actually don’t know how I do it,” Morales said through a translator. “I just go out there and stay aggressive.”
Archer gave up three runs, four hits and walked one.
Kevin Pillar had an RBI double in the eighth. After Morales’ shot off Diaz, Smoak homered on the first pitch from Justin Marks, who was making his first appearance this season.
Tampa Bay centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier was hit on the right hand by Liriano’s pitch during the fourth and left after the fifth. X-rays were negative.
Blue Jays: Gibbons said RHP Marcus Stroman (right armpit tightness) will make his scheduled start Monday night against Cleveland.
Rays: SS Matt Duffy (left Achilles tendon surgery) had an intensive baserunning session.
PACE OF PLAY
Friday’s game took 3 hours, 32 minutes, making it the ninth consecutive Rays game and the 25th of 31 this year taking three hours or more.
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista struck out four times and finished 0 for 5. He is hitting .187.
Blue Jays: RHP Mat Latos was designated for assignment.
Rays: Marks had his contract purchased from Triple-A Durham.
Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada (1-1) and Rays RHP Jake Odorizzi (1-1) are Saturday’s starters. Odorizzi will be making his second appearance since missing two starts due to a left hamstring strain.
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Mark Didtler, The Associated Press