ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays have almost everything they could want for a September playoff run.
They’re in first place, and they’re getting big hits and powerful pitching.
Now they just need some more fans to show up.
Carlos Pena homered and drove in four runs, Wade Davis won his sixth straight decision and the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-2 before an announced crowd of just 11,968 on Monday night.
The sparse gathering came one day after the AL East co-leading Rays completed a three-game series against Boston in which Tampa Bay took two of three.
“It was a big letdown,” Rays All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford said. “We came out all fired up and you see that, it’s really depressing.”
The three games with Boston, which has fallen seven games behind Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees in the divisional and AL wild-card races, drew crowds of 29,461, 36,973 and 23,438.
“There’s nothing we can do about that anymore, honestly,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said . “Whether it’s winning or losing or whatever, we can’t even be concerned about that. Of course it’s disappointing, but we do appreciate the group that did come out. It’s too bad because you’re missing really good baseball.”
The Rays had no letdown during the game, winning for the 12th time in 16 games.
“Our guys are so good about being ready right now,” Maddon said. “You come into the dugout before the game and you could feel the intensity of the group. I wasn’t concerned. I really thought we were ready to play and obviously we were.”
Pena made it 5-1 with a three-run homer off Brett Cecil (11-7) in the third.
“This is the time of year he usually gets really hot,” Crawford said.
Davis (11-9) allowed two runs and six hits in 7 2-3 innings. The right-hander has the longest winning streak by a rookie in franchise history. He had shared with Jeff Niemann (2008) and Victor Zambrano (2001).
Chad Qualls replaced Davis with two on and two outs in the eighth and struck out Jose Bautista, who leads the majors with 42 home runs.
Aaron Hill hit his 20th homer of the season for the Blue Jays.
Cecil, who had beaten Tampa Bay in three other starts this season, gave up five runs – two earned – and five hits over seven innings.
The speedy Crawford reached when Hill was charged with an error after moving in from second base and then misplaying a slow grounder with two outs in the third. After Evan Longoria had an infield single, Pena hit an opposite-field drive to left for his 26th homer this season.
“He just missed the ball,” Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said of Hill. “Speed plays a role. That’s why we’re trying to get some speed on this team because it makes (fielders) hurry.”
Crawford had an RBI double and Pena hit a sacrifice fly to put the Rays up 2-0 in the first. Longoria had a sacrifice fly during the eighth that extended the Tampa Bay advantage to 6-2.
The Blue Jays pulled within 2-1 on a third-inning grounder by Travis Snider. Hill, who hit his 20th double this year during the second, added a fifth-inning solo homer.
The time of the game was a crisp 2 hours, 14 minutes.
Notes: The Rays are a major league-best 31-14 against left-handed starters. … Toronto 1B Lyle Overbay missed his third consecutive game. Gaston said Overbay continues to not feel well and is undergoing tests. … Tampa Bay reliever Grant Balfour (ribs) threw a perfect inning in his second minor league appearance for Class-A Charlotte. … Blue Jays INF Yunel Escobar sat out for the second straight game with a stiff back. … Toronto OF Vernon Wells was rested. … Longoria has 16 RBIs in his last 16 games.
Updated August 30, 2010
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