The Toronto Blue Jays have been among baseball's biggest disappointments, but they're hoping their most complete performance thus far can provide some momentum going forward.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Rays - one of the majors' best teams at home - are likely looking forward to returning to Tropicana Field for 10 straight games, beginning with the opener of a four-game series Monday night against Toronto.
The Blue Jays (11-21) had lost four in a row and 14 of 18 before a 10-2 home win over Seattle on Sunday. It was the most lopsided victory of the year for the team with the AL's second-worst record, as Toronto matched its highest-scoring game of 2013 and had a season-best 15 hits.
"We were desperate for that. We needed something like that," manager John Gibbons said. "It's not like we're just waiting to get on a roll. We needed a win and they're hard to come by."
Mark DeRosa and Melky Cabrera both provided homers after the team hit one in the previous four games combined. Starting pitcher Brandon Morrow , who allowed three hits in eight innings, called the win a "morale booster."
A victory Monday would give Toronto back-to-back wins for just the second time.
Tampa Bay (14-16) is coming off a 4-5 road trip, capped by winning two of three games at Colorado after an 8-3 victory Sunday.
While they're 6-12 away from home, the Rays are 8-4 in St. Petersburg as they kick off a 10-game homestand. They've allowed no more than one run in six of the last nine at Tropicana Field.
Scheduled starter Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 4.71 ERA) won his last start at home, throwing seven scoreless innings against the A's on April 20, but has since been roughed up in two outings on the road. He gave up a combined nine runs in 11 innings, including a 9-8 loss at Kansas City on Wednesday that saw him yield a season-high nine hits over five frames.
"Defense and offense came to play tonight and I didn't," Hellickson told the team's official website. "It was as simple as that."
Hellickson is 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA in six starts versus Toronto, which counters with struggling left-hander Mark Buehrle (1-2, 6.43).
Buehrle has surrendered seven hits, five runs and three homers in each of his last two outings and lost both. He issued a season-high three walks in 6 2-3 innings of a 10-1 home loss to Boston on Wednesday.
He's allowing 2.3 home runs per nine innings compared to a 1.0 career average.
"I have to make better pitches," Buehrle told the team's official website. "(I) have to keep the ball down, execute pitches and stay low in the zone."
The only current Rays player to homer off him is Jose Molina - that came in 2006 - and Buehrle is 8-3 lifetime against them with a 4.19 ERA.
Tampa Bay's middle infield is shorthanded. Shortstop Yunel Esocbar, a former Blue Jay, didn't play Sunday after getting hit on the hand by a pitch Saturday and is expected to miss a few days, manager Joe Maddon said. Second baseman Ben Zobrist will miss a second straight game after flying home to Illinois on Sunday following his grandmother's death.
James Loney is 17 for 34 over his last eight games with five three-hit performances, but he's 4 for 24 (.167) in six games versus the Blue Jays.
Toronto hasn't won a series against Tampa Bay since Aug. 6-8, 2010, with the Rays going 30-12 in meetings since then. Tampa Bay won last year's series 14-4 as Evan Longoria hit .360 with 14 RBIs in 13 contests.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|April 29, 2013||Josh Johnson||15-Day DL||Right triceps inflammation|
|April 22, 2013||Maicer Izturis||Day-to-Day||Sore hamstring|
|April 14, 2013||Sergio Santos||15-Day DL||Right triceps strain|
|April 13, 2013||Jose Reyes||60-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|April 12, 2013||Jose Reyes||Day-to-Day||Sprained left ankle|
|April 11, 2013||Darren Oliver||Day-to-Day||Arm|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|May 04, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Left hand contusion|
|April 27, 2013||Jose Molina||Day-to-Day||Knee|
|April 25, 2013||Yunel Escobar||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|March 31, 2013||Juan Carlos Oviedo||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|March 28, 2013||Jeff Niemann||60-Day DL||Right shoulder surgery - out for season|
|March 24, 2013||Luke Scott||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Down seven runs, Toronto easily could have conceded another disappointing loss. Instead, the struggling Blue Jays chipped away until they found a way to pull off their biggest comeback in nearly six years.
J.P. Arencibia hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Fernando Rodney , giving the last-place team an 8-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
"I think this game kind of evens itself out and if guys keep coming with positive attitudes and keep coming ready to work, it's going to turn. That's the way this game is, and you've got to continue to stay positive and come ready to play every day," Arencibia said after the Blue Jays won for just the fourth time in 14 games.
The last time Toronto rallied from at least seven runs down to win was June 5, 2007, when it overcame an 8-1 margin to beat Tampa Bay 12-11, STATS said.
Tampa Bay last lost a lead of at least seven runs on May 25, 2009, when Cleveland came back from a 10-0 deficit to win 11-10, STATS said.
This time, Evan Longoria hit his third career grand slam as Tampa Bay built a 7-0 lead that Jeremy Hellickson and four Rays relievers failed to protect before a season-low crowd of 9,952 at Tropicana Field.
Colby Rasmus and Mark DeRosa also hit two-run homers for Toronto.
"In a lot of ways we were due, but you don't expect it to happen that way," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
"They've got a pretty good pitching staff over there, and when they put seven on the board they're usually going to have a pretty good night," Arencibia added. "Fortunately, we were able to come back and answer."
Toronto trailed 7-6 when Adam Lind drew a leadoff walk in the ninth from Rodney (1-1), who entered the game with one out in the eighth. Pinch-runner Emilio Bonifacio stole second and continued to third on catcher Jose Molina 's throwing error with no outs.
Rodney, eyeing a five-out save, retired the next two batters before Arencibia lined a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats. Arencibia, who pinch-hit in the sixth inning and stayed in the game to catch, hit his ninth home run.
"I really would hope that people understand that he was extended beyond his normal moments right there, and that's pretty much why that happened," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, noting his bullpen was short coming off a nine-game, 11-day road trip that ended Sunday. "I thought we had no other options."
Darren Oliver (1-1) pitched one scoreless inning and Casey Janssen worked a perfect ninth for his eighth save.
Longoria's seventh homer of the season was the biggest blow in a seven-run third inning against Mark Buerhle.
Rasmus hit a two-run homer off Hellickson in the fourth and DeRosa added a two-run, pinch-hit shot off reliever Jake McGee in the sixth.
Down 7-5, Toronto had the potential tying runs in scoring position in the seventh and eighth, but was only able to get one runner home - on Jose Bautista 's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the eighth off Rodney.
Mark Buehrle allowed seven runs and nine hits in six innings. He has now yielded eight home runs over his last three starts.
Luke Scott also homered in Tampa Bay's burst. The third inning was helped by Kelly Johnson 's fly ball that landed over the head of Rasmus in center field for a RBI single, as well as Ryan Roberts ' check-swing infield single that loaded the bases for Longoria.
Maddon asked the umpiring crew to review Johnson's single to see if it had bounced off one of the catwalks that support the roof at Tropicana Field and therefore should have been ruled a home run. The crew returned to the field after looking at the video and the play stood.
Despite being staked to the seven-run lead, Hellickson only lasted five innings. The right-hander yielded Rasmus' homer and Melky Cabrera 's RBI single in the fourth and was replaced by McGee after throwing 101 pitches.
"It's a difficult loss, no question. But it's about how we react tomorrow," Maddon said. "You lose a game like this and it's tough. Everybody is going to go home very upset. It's how you bounce after the fall."
NOTES: Longoria's grand slam was his first since May 1, 2009 against Boston. ... Tampa Bay SS Yunel Escobar was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game with a bruised left hand. He entered as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning. ... Rays 2B Ben Zobrist is due to return Tuesday after leaving the team for two games following the death of his grandmother. ... Gibbons decided to start C Henry Blanco instead of Arencibia. "I just want to run one game like that," Gibbons said. "It's just something I want to look at." Blanco's previous six starts this season came with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey pitching. Arencibia pinch-hit for Blanco in the sixth.