ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- — Rookie Alek Manoah rebounded from early control issues to last six innings and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays 4-2 on Tuesday night to improve to a major league-best 16-4 in September.
Toronto maintained a half-game lead lead over the New York Yankees for the second AL wild card. Tampa Bay, closing in on its second straight division title, is six games ahead of second-place Boston. The Rays, just 9-11 this month, have 10 games remaining.
“Anytime you beat the Rays, you’ve got to play you’re ‘A’ game, and again we did that tonight,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoya said.
There were no incidents one day after Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier scooped up a data card that fell out of Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk’s wristband during a play at the plate in the sixth inning and refused to give it back to the Blue Jays.
Rays manager Kevin Cash apologized to Montoyo before the game.
“So now it's agua under the bridge,” Montoyo said.
Manoah (7-2) allowed two runs and five hits. stuck out seven and walked six — double his previous season high. Four of the walks occurred during the opening two innings. The rookie right-hander allowed one hit over eight innings in an 8-0 win over Tampa Bay on Sept. 13.
Toronto has won three of five against the Rays over the last nine days.
When asked what message the Blue Jays are sending to the others about the AL wild-card race, he replied “We're here.”
Jordan Romano, the third Toronto reliever, walked Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Díaz and Randy Arozarena with two outs in the ninth, Joey Wendle lined a ball just foul down the right-field line on the first pitch, then hit a flyout to right that gave Romano his 20th save in 21 chances.
Tampa Bay drew 11 walks, had five hits but went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base.
“We had Manoh before he got locked in with guys on base, couldn't get anything going,” Cash said,
Bo Bichette gave Toronto a 3-2 lead with his 98th RBI, a sixth-inning sacrifice fly off Nick Anderson (0-1) as Toronto took a 3-2 lead. With a runner on second, Wendle saved a run by taking away a hit from Teoscar Hernández with a leaping catch on a liner to shortstop.
Hernández made it 4-2 with an RBI single in the eighth.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. put the Blue Jays up 2-1 when he connected on his career-high 21st homer against Drew Rasmussen leading off the fifth. Gurriel leads the majors with 29 RBI in September and is one from tying Kelly Gruber (1990) for the most during the month in team history.
The Rays pulled even at 2 on Wendle’s RBI single later in the fifth.
Tampa Bay sent 12 batters to the plate, aided by four walks and three hits off Manoah, over the first two innings but scored just once on Brandon Lowe’s two-out RBI single in the second.
Manoah had 42 pitches through two and finished with 99.
The Blue Jays tied it at 1 when Breyvic Valera hit a third-inning run-scoring grounder.
Rasmussen gave up two runs and four hits over five innings.
Tampa Bay rookie INF Wander Franco (right hamstring) took another step towards returning Friday by getting five at-bats in a simulated game with Triple-A Durham, He will play games with the Bulls Wednesday and Thursday.
Kiermaier made a nifty sliding catch on Hernández’s liner in the second that first was called a hit. It was changed to an out after the umpires met behind the mound.
Blue Jays: LHP Hyun Jin Ryu (neck tightness) played catch.
Rays: Manager Kevin Cash didn’t want to completely rule it out but said it was “highly likely” that LHP Cody Reed (thoracic outlet syndrome surgery) will be back this season. … RHP Matt Wisler (right middle finger inflammation) will have a bullpen session Thursday or Friday.
Toronto will utilize a bullpen day Wednesday against the Rays.
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