TORONTO (AP) — At the end of a tough road trip, Evan Longoria gave the Tampa Bay Rays something to build on.
Longoria hit a two-run homer and came within a triple of the cycle, Desmond Jennings added a solo shot and the Tampa Bay Rays ended a 10-game road trip by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 9-4 Thursday night.
“Like I’ll always say, it’s about winning,” Longoria said. “We’ve got some good momentum going home.”
Longoria went 3 for 4 with a season-high four RBIs and reached base four times as the Rays tagged Blue Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez for a career-high six earned runs. Longoria singled home a run in the first, homered in the fifth, drew an intentional walk in the seventh and hit an RBI double in the ninth.
“Today was an outstanding game, one of those career days,” Carlos Pena said of Longoria. “It was an awesome game for him.”
Longoria’s homer, a drive to deep center, was his first since Tampa Bay’s April 6 opener.
“It’s a relief to finally hit another one,” he said. “They feel good when you get a chance to round the bases.”
Jeremy Hellickson won for the Rays, who have won nine of their past 12 games against the Blue Jays and 10 of 15 at Rogers Centre. Hellickson (2-0) gave up three runs, two earned, in 5 2-3 innings. He walked three and struck out four.
“Overall not bad but still not as sharp as he can be,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays went 4-6 on a three-city trip to Detroit, Boston and Toronto that began with seven straight day games. At one stretch, the Rays played six straight games with six different start times, including an 11:05 a.m. start at Fenway Park last Monday. It matches the longest trip of the season for Tampa Bay, who have a 10-game trip to Minnesota, Seattle and Los Angeles in mid-August.
“That was very challenging,” Pena said. “We had a couple of opening days, a bunch of day games. It was a challenge to get your rest, get your preparation routine in line. We held our own and we get back home with positive momentum on our side and something to build from.”
The Rays lost five of the first six games on the trip but closed it by winning three of four.
“It’s been a difficult schedule,” Maddon said. “I’m really proud of the way our guys have fought through it.”
Hellickson left after Yunel Escobar drew a two-out walk in the sixth. Kelly Johnson singled off Jake McGee and Burke Badenhop walked Jose Bautista to load the bases for Adam Lind, but J.P. Howell escaped the jam by getting Lind to line out to first.
Howell worked 1 1-3 innings, Joel Peralta pitched one inning and Fernando Rodney finished, giving up Brett Lawrie’s RBI grounder in the ninth.
Trailing after Longoria’s RBI single in the first, the Blue Jays tied it in the bottom half on Lind’s two-out double.
The Rays reclaimed the lead with two in the second. Matt Joyce scored on Sean Rodriguez’s single to right when Bautista’s throw skipped past catcher J.P. Arencibia and struck Alvarez, who was backing up, on the left collarbone. Alvarez went down and was treated briefly on the field but stayed in the game.
“It short hopped me and the hardest ball to catch in baseball is a short hop,” Arencibia said. “Not only did it short hop me, it short hopped me and hopped up.”
Rodriguez took third on Bautista’s throwing error on scored on a base hit by Jennings.
Alvarez (0-1) allowed six hits in 6 1-3 innings, walked two and struck out four.
Toronto tied it at 3 in the fourth. Arencibia hit an RBI double and Escobar followed with a grounder to short, with Arencibia scoring on Rodriguez’s throwing error.
The Rays took the lead for good with a three-run, two-homer fifth. Jennings hit a one-out drive to left, his first and, after Zobrist walked, Longoria made it 6-3 with a shot off the facing of the center field restaurant, his second.
Longoria doubled home a run off Jason Frasor in the ninth and Luke Scott capped it with a two-run double.
NOTES: Tampa Bay moved C Robinson Chirinos (concussion) to the 60-day DL and claimed 1B/OF Brandon Allen on waivers from Oakland. Allen is expected to join the Rays Friday when they return to Florida. The Rays are also expected to activate OF B.J. Upton (sore back) off the DL Friday, meaning they will make two roster moves before hosting Minnesota. … Toronto optioned LH Evan Crawford to Double-A New Hampshire after the game and purchased the contract of RH Drew Hutchison from Double-A. Hutchison will make his ML debut at Kansas City on Saturday. To make room for Hutchison on the 40-man roster, RH Jesse Litsch was moved to the 60-day DL. … Commissioner Bud Selig said the Rays need a new stadium to remain competitive. “They need a new ballpark, there’s no question,” Selig said Thursday in an interview with the Associated Press Sports Editors. … Alvarez has never walked more than two batters in any of his 13 ML starts.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.