ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Zach Eflin joined an special group with his lastest win
Eflin became major leagues’ third seven-game winner and Tampa Bay beat struggling Alek Manoah and Toronto 6-3 as the Rays took three of four from the Blue Jays.
Eflin (7-1) allowed one run and six hits in seven innings as the major league-leading Rays (37-15) stole seven bases for the second time this season and improved to 24-5 at home. He joined teammate Shane McClanahan (8-0) and Minnesota’s Joe Ryan (7-1) as the big leagues’ winningest pitchers.
“Elite pitch execution,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “To get them to swing early in the count and not drive the ball, it’s speaks to Zach’s stuff.”
Eflin didn't have a strikeout.
“I knew it was going to be a grinder day,” Eflin said. “Just wanted to go out there and attack guys, and they were swinging early and they were hitting it right at guys there for a while.”
Manoah (1-5), a 16-game winner last year, extended his winless streak to nine starts after giving up five runs, three hits and five walks over three innings with six strikeouts. He threw just 44 of 87 pitches for strikes and his ERA climbed from 5.15 to 5.53, The Rays stole five bases while he was on the mound.
Toronto (26-25) is 8-15 in May. The Blue Jays are 6-15 in division play after going 43-33 last year. They trail the Rays by 10 1/2 and the teams do not meet again until six games during the final 10 days of the season.
The Toronto players called a team meeting postgame,
“We're punched right in the face the last 10 days or so,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “You've got to understand that and you've got to make adjustments. In talking to the guys and hearing them, it's got to happen tomorrow.”
“Yes it's tough a division, yes that's a good (Rays) team, and we're still a good team, too,” Schneider added.
After the Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Jake Diekman, Colin Poche entered and walked Bo Bichette on four pitches and gave up a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Ernie Clement. Poche got his first save this season when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded into a game-ending forceout.
Wander Franco tripled and scored on Randy Arozarena’s single during Tampa Bay’s two-run first. Arozarena stole second and took third as Brandon Lowe struck out and reached firston a wild pitch. Harold Ramírez then hit a potential inning-ending double-play that second baseman Cavan Biggio bobbled and could only get a forceout at second as Arozarena to come home.
Josh Lowe made it 3-1 on a run-scoring double in the second. Manoah, who threw 62 pitches through two innings, avoided further damage by striking out Brandon Lowe to stranded the bases loaded.
Taylor Walls stole third as part of a double steal and scored on an errant throw by catcher Alejandro Kirk in a two-run third as the Rays went up 5-1.
Franco stole his 16th and 17th bases and scored to put the Rays ahead on Arozarena’s seventh-inning single off Adam Cimber.
“It's a dangerous lineup, not only hitting-wise but just running the bases, keeping on the base paths,” Eflin said. “It's what we do when we're during well. It's fun to watch.”
Toronto’s Brandon Belt had a first-inning RBI single.
Rays 1B Luke Raley sent the ball he struck out Gurrerro in the eighth inning Tuesday to the Blue Jays clubhouse for the slugger to sign. Guerrero hit a grand slam off Raley in the ninth,
Tampa Bay optioned RHP Ben Heller to Triple-A Durham one day after he was called up. He warmed up in the bullpen Wednesday but hasn’t gotten into a big league game since Sept. 4, 2020.
Blue Jays: C Danny Jansen (left groin tightness) underwent an MRI.
Blue Jays: RHP Kevin Gausman (2-3) will go Friday night against Minnesota RHP Louis Varland (2-0).
Rays: RHP Cooper Criswell (0-1) will start or follow an opener against Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Noah Syndergaard (1-3) on Friday night.
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Mark Didtler, The Associated Press