ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Jose Bautista hit his major league-leading 43rd homer during a 10-run sixth inning and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 13-5 on Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay lost for only the fifth time in 17 games but fell a game behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East. The Rays and Yankees, who beat Oakland 9-3, had been tied atop the division for the previous eight days.
Bautista capped the sixth-inning outburst with a three-run shot off reliever Lance Cormier that put the Blue Jays up 11-3. It was the most runs scored in one inning by Toronto since an 11-run sixth on July 25, 2007, at Minnesota.
Bautista also had a broken-bat, run-scoring single — giving him 103 RBIs this season — during a two-run eighth that extended the cushion to 13-3.
Ricky Romero (11-8) gave up five runs, three hits and five walks in 7 1-3 innings for the Blue Jays, who can stop a stretch of 10 straight series defeats at Tampa Bay with a win on Wednesday night.
Jeff Niemann (10-5) struggled in his second consecutive start since returning from a strained right shoulder, giving up seven runs and seven hits in five-plus innings. The Tampa Bay right-hander has allowed 17 runs over 8 2-3 innings in his past two outings.
Neimann allowed only two hits though five innings before Toronto started the sixth with five hits and a batter hit by a pitch. DeWayne Wise had an RBI single, Vernon Wells hit a two-run double, and Adam Lind and John Buck had consecutive RBI doubles as the Blue Jays took a 6-3 lead and ended Niemann's night.
Cormier entered and gave up Aaron Hill's two-run homer that made it 8-3.
Romero held the Rays hitless until there were two outs in the fifth, when Ben Zobrist hit an RBI single and Dan Johnson drove in a pair with a double to put Tampa Bay ahead 3-1.
John McDonald put the Blue Jays up 1-0 in the third on his second homer in the last three games.
Romero allowed two baserunners through four innings — walks to Zobrist and B.J. Upton — and both were erased on double plays. The left-hander got early defensive help when Wise made a diving catch in right on Upton's drive leading off the first.
Reid Brignac had a two-run single in the eighth for Tampa Bay.
Notes: Toronto has 201 homers this season. ... Rays reliever Grant Balfour (ribs) could pitch in a simulated game Wednesday.