ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – The Tampa Bay pitching was nearly perfect for eight innings before surviving a scare in the ninth.
Brendan McKay and four relievers combined on a two-hitter, Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer, and the AL playoff-contending Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-0 on Friday night.
“I think what you saw McKay do for us was set the tone,” Zunino said. “The guys that came in after continued to attack guys and put guys on the defensive.”
Randal Grichuk was lone Toronto baserunner through eight innings, reaching on his two-out opposite-field triple in the first off McKay near the wall that right fielder Avisail Garcia overran.
“Regardless, tough play,” Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We’ve gotten used to seeing Avi make that pretty easily but he said he kind of lost it for a second.”
The Blue Jays threatened in ninth against 29-year old Cole Sulser, who was making his major league debut. Danny Jansen had a leadoff walk, Anthony Alford grounded a single to left and Bo Bichette walked to load the bases with no outs and chase Sulser, who had a 1-2-3 eighth.
Emilio Pagan retired Teoscar Hernandez on a pop-up, struck out Grichuk and got a fly from Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to get this 19th save.
“Emilio comes in and just shuts the door,” Cash said. “He’s gotten good at doing that.
McKay, recalled from Triple-A Durham on Tuesday, struck out seven in 3 2/3 scoreless innings. He had been shutdown for around 10 days at the end of August with fatigue in his throwing shoulder that resulted in a cortisone shot.
“Overall it was encouraging,” McKay said.
Pete Fairbanks (1-2) followed McKay and retired four straight batters.
The Rays, in a tight three-way AL wild-card race with Oakland and Cleveland, have won eight of nine.
Clay Buchholz (1-4) gave up four runs and seven hits over in six innings for the Blue Jays, who have lost 14 of 17. It was his third appearance after being sidelined three and a half months by right shoulder inflammation.
“You’d like to win but for this group it’s a learning experience, a learning curve,” Buchholz said. “I think in the near future there will be a lot of wins for this team.”
Garcia had an RBI double in the first inning before Zunino’s ninth homer made it 3-0 in the second.
Tampa Bay pushed it to 4-0 in the fourth when Willy Adames doubled, went to third on Kevin Kiermaier’s grounder and scored on a passed ball by Jansen.
Austin Meadows had an RBI single in the eighth.
Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo was ejected by umpire Bill Miller in the fourth for arguing balls and strikes.
RHP Tyler Glasnow, 6-1 when he was sidelined in mid-May by a right forearm strain, will start Sunday. LHP Blake Snell (elbow bone chip surgery) will make his first rehab start Saturday with Triple-A Durham. RHP Yonny Chirinos (right middle finger inflammation) could throw to hitters next week.
Blue Jays: INF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left quadriceps strain) got six at-bats in a simulated game.
Rays: 2B Eric Sogard left after three innings with a bruised right foot. … LF Tommy Pham (right arm flexor strain) and C Travis d’Arnaud (shoulder and neck stiffness), both hurt Thursday, didn’t play. Pham will be limited to hitting only until at least early next week.
San Francisco claimed RHP Ricardo Pinto off waivers from the Rays. … Tampa Bay will recalled IF Mike Brosseau from Triple-A Durham Saturday.
Sulser became the 55th player and 33nd pitcher used by the Rays. Both are club records.
Blue Jays: LHP Anthony Kay, acquired from the New York Mets in the Marcus Stroman trade, will make his major league debut Saturday night against Rays RHP Charlie Morton (14-6). It will be the second time Morton faces Toronto rookies Bichette (2 for 4, one homer) and Guerrero Jr. (0 for 3).
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