The Canadian Press
TORONTO–Dominic Leone rejoined the Blue Jays yesterday after spending three days on the bereavement list.
When he got into the game, it was like he hadn’t missed a beat.
Leone recorded two crucial outs in the seventh inning to help Toronto beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2.
Coming in with the bases loaded and a one-run lead, the 25-year-old right-hander struck out Evan Longoria and then induced a pop-fly from Logan Morrison to keep the Jays ahead.
“It’s good to be back,” said Leone. “I figured first day out, of course I get thrown in there.
“But ultimately, I just wanted to do my job, be aggressive, and not back down.
“Longoria’s an unbelievable hitter,” he added. “He’s had my number in years past, so I really tried to bring the fight to him.”
Starter Marcus Stroman, who was charged with two runs (one of them walked in by Aaron Loup before Leone took the mound) greeted Leone on the dugout steps and embraced him after the inning.
“He’s been unreal, man, unbelievable,” Stroman said of Leone. “Huge. I mean it’s hard to put into words.
“That was a key spot right there,” he noted. “To come in and get those two outs in ‘Longo’ and Morrison.
“That’s not to discredit ‘Loupy,’ either,” Stroman stressed. “Those pitches ‘Loupy’ made were unbelievable.
“Obviously, they didn’t work out in his favour, but he competed and he did his job.”
Stroman (11-6) went 6 1/3 innings, allowing those two runs and six hits while walking three and striking out seven.
Ryan Goins drove in the eventual winning run before leaving the game with an injury.
Goins hit a single up the middle to score Steve Pearce from third base in the bottom of the sixth inning for his 45th RBI of the season.
He had to leave the game shortly after when Rays’ shortstop Daniel Robertson stepped on his left forearm as he was trying to steal second.
X-rays revealed no broken bones.
“It’s all good, just a bruise. I’m day-to-day,” said Goins, who didn’t have a bandage on the sizeable abrasion on his arm post-game.
Pearce hit a solo homer, one of his two hits on the night, while Jose Bautista drove in a run for the Jays (58-62).
Josh Donaldson also had two hits.
Roberto Osuna worked the ninth for his 31st save.
Brad Miller had an RBI groundout for the Rays (60-62) while pinch-hitter Steven Souza Jr. picked up an RBI on a walk.
Rookie Jacob Faria (5-4) allowed three runs on six hits, walked two, and struck out two over 5 1/3 innings.
Jays’ manager John Gibbons exchanged words with home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale as he was making the pitching change from Loup to Leone and was ejected.
Bench coach DeMarlo Hale laughed when a reporter pointed out that four of Gibbons’ five ejections this season have come during Stroman starts.
“I didn’t know that,” Hale said with a smile. “I just think it’s the moment, you know?
“It was a big moment and there was some close pitches,” he noted.
“Gibby’s got the backs of his players and they love him for that.”
Catcher Raffy Lopez scored the game’s first run–coming in from first base on a Bautista double in the third inning.
Pearce extended the lead to 2-0 an inning later, sending a first-pitch offering from Faria over the right-field wall for his 12th home run.
The Rays replied in the top of the fourth. Mallex Smith led off with a double, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on another groundout from Miller.
But Goins restored Toronto’s two-run cushion in the sixth, cashing in Pearce from third base with his RBI single.
Darwin Barney made a key defensive play in the top of the ninth–snagging a low grounder and tossing it to Rob Refsnyder at second base get Smith for the first out.
“That was a nice play; that probably saved the game right there,” Goins said.
“That ball goes through, Smith goes first to third and that changes the whole complexion of the game,” he noted.