Homers power Jays over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG – If chicks really do dig the long ball as the famous shoe ad in the early-1990s said, Toronto was feeling the love Saturday.

The Rays gave up three homers in a 6-2 loss at Tropicana Field, including a pair to Adam Lind, keeping the club from maintaining pace with the Red Sox, which extended its American League East division lead to two games.

“We still had a chance to keep it close, but they kept that cushion,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of the loss. “They hit the balls through some holes.”

It didn’t take long for Tampa Bay starter Roberto Hernandez to get pounded, either. Just the third batter into the game, Jose Bautista launched a ball that was sure to clear the left field fence the moment it left the bat.

Then after he surrendered two more runs in the third and went unscathed in the fourth, Lind delivered his first moon shot against Hernandez, who picked up his 13th loss.

“I can’t control the losing,” Hernandez said. “I want to win… It’s a tough situation for me right now.”

The right-hander exited the game after just 5 2/3 innings after surrendering five runs – four earned – on seven hits and a walk. As had been the case with Hernandez through his rough season with Tampa Bay, when he lacked control, particularly on his slider on keeping it down in the strike zone, he got hammered.

“I know it doesn’t look good line-wise, but he did not throw that ball that badly,” said Maddon, coming to the defense of contact-oriented Hernandez. “The game is about these little moments – and I’ll say that maybe there has been the mistake in these crucial moments – but actually physically throwing the ball, he has not done that bad. We really have not supported him that well offensively.”

On the other end, Toronto starter J.A. Happ stymied Tampa Bay hitters throughout his 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and a walk to earn the win.

The only real trouble Happ faced came in the fourth when the Rays earned back-to-back singles, ending Happ’s perfect outing. Ben Zobrist followed it with a sacrifice fly that brought in Jason Bourgeois before a Yunel Escobar single plated Evan Longoria.

Happ’s outing was just the third since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 7 and the first since being on the bereavement list. More significantly, it was the first time Happ pitched under the dome of Tropicana Field since May 7 when a Desmond Jennings line drive struck him in the head, leaving him on the ground motionless for several minutes.

“I probably haven’t pitched the best here, and I looked forward to having the opportunity to come try and change that up a little bit,” Happ said. “… To me it’s over with. I’ve been talking about more of trying to come here and have a good game than the incident.”

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