TORONTO – Edwin Encarnacion kept up his torrid pace this month by belting his 15th home run of the season as the Toronto Blue Jays extended their winning streak to seven games Monday night with a 10-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Encarnacion had three of Toronto’s 15 hits as the American League East division leaders maintained their two-game lead on the New York Yankees, who beat St. Louis 6-4 in 12 innings.
Dioner Navarro and Steve Tolleson hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning for Toronto (30-22). Encarnacion hit a solo shot in the sixth inning for his 13th homer this month, setting a club record for most homers in the month of May.
Drew Hutchison (4-3) worked five innings for the victory in front of 15,616 fans on a warm, muggy evening at Rogers Centre. Canadian Erik Bedard (2-3) shouldered the loss as the Rays’ four-game win streak came to an end.
The Blue Jays gave their young right-hander an early lead to work with by scoring a couple early runs after opening the game with five straight hits.
Jose Reyes reached on a bunt single and scored when Melky Cabrera doubled off the top of the wall in left field. Jose Bautista followed with a check-swing single that scored another run but the Jays slugger got caught in a rundown after rounding first base.
Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie, of Langley, B.C., also hit singles before Bedard got two flyouts to limit the damage.
David DeJesus put Tampa Bay (23-29) on the board in the third inning with a solo shot that landed in the second deck in right field. It was his fifth homer of the season.
Hutchison had trouble hitting his spots later in the frame. Evan Longoria reached on one of three walks in the inning and scored on a James Loney sacrifice fly.
The Rays loaded the bases but Tolleson showed his range at second base by cutting off a sharp grounder by Cole Figueroa and making an off-balance throw to first to retire the side.
The bottom half of the Jays’ order displayed some power in the fourth inning. Navarro hit a solo shot to give the Jays the lead and Tolleson followed with a blast of his own.
Toronto also used a little small ball to scratch out another run.
Kevin Pillar reached on a Figueroa error and moved to second when Anthony Gose dropped down a nice sacrifice bunt. Reyes moved Pillar to third on a grounder to the right side of the infield and Cabrera drove him in with a single.
The Rays showed off their power in the fifth inning.
Matt Joyce hit a one-out double and cleanup hitter Desmond Jennings followed with his fifth homer of the season. Loney tied the game with a solo shot – the first time the Rays have hit back-to-back homers this year.
Toronto responded with four runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Encarnacion and Lawrie hit back-to-back doubles and Navarro added an RBI single to make it 7-5, knocking Bedard out of the game.
Alex Colome came on in relief and didn’t fare much better.
He walked pinch-hitter Juan Francisco and got Pillar to fly out before being burned by the speedy Gose, who outhustled Colome to the bag on a slow chopper to the right side. Reyes drew a bases-loaded walk and Cabrera drove in Francisco with a sacrifice fly.
Aaron Loup relieved Hutchison in the sixth and got a three-up, three-down inning thanks to Cabrera’s strong throw from left field, which prevented DeJesus from extending a single to a double.
Encarnacion led off the Toronto half of the sixth by turning on a 2-2 pitch from Colome. Entering the game, the Toronto slugger led the major leagues in homers, was tied for first with 17 extra-base hits and was second with 25 RBIs.
In the eighth inning, Pillar prevented a couple of runs from scoring by making a nice sliding catch on a Longoria liner at the warning track in right field.
Hutchison allowed seven hits, five earned runs and four walks. Bedard, from Navan, Ont., gave up 12 hits, seven earned runs and struck out a pair.
© 2014 The Canadian Press