Rays pound Blue Jays with seven-run inning

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Reuters) - The Tampa Bay Rays struck for seven runs in the eighth inning to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-3 on Saturday and record their 10th win in 12 games.

Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist both delivered two-run singles for the Rays, who trailed 3-2 before the eighth inning.

The American League East division leaders also got runs in the eighth off an RBI single by B.J. Upton, a bases-loaded walk and a hit batsman, again with the bases full.

"We kept grinding, kept grinding, kept grinding, and eventually we got all those runs," Rays manager Joe Maddon told reporters.

"(We had) some really good at-bats when it was really critical."

The Rays (13-5), off to their best start, turned the game in their favor after Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston lifted starter Rickey Romero, who had allowed just six hits and two runs, after the seventh.

The Rays quickly torched loser Scott Downs (0-2) for three runs and got four more off Casey Janssen.

"(The) bullpen just couldn't get an out tonight," Gaston said. "Downs has pitched great for us and just kind of struggled tonight.

"That's going to happen once in a while, so we just have to bounce back tomorrow and hope that we get into the eighth inning with a lead again and see what happens."

Five Tampa Bay pitchers combined to hold Toronto to six hits, allowing only a double in the final two and a third innings, with Dan Wheeler (1-0), who pitched to one batter in the eighth, credited with the win.

Toronto struck first on Lyle Overbay's solo homer in the fifth.

John Jaso's two-run homer, his first in the majors, in the bottom of the inning put Tampa Bay on top before another Toronto home run, this one a two-run blast by Adam Lind.

Toronto loaded the bases in the seventh but Randy Choate came on to strike out Fred Lewis and end the threat.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)