Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Happ and Jays deal blow to Rays

Fine pitching puts pressure on Tampa

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TORONTO -- Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ capped a challenging season with one of his best efforts of the year.

It was a performance that leaves him feeling good heading into the off-season. It also significantly raised the pressure on the Tampa Bay Rays in their pursuit of an American League wild-card spot.

Happ retired 11 batters in a row at one point in Toronto's 7-2 victory over the Rays on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. He allowed one earned run and five hits over 7 1/3 innings.

"Overall it's a great way to finish for him," said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. "He can go into the off-season feeling confident and healthy."

Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar hit two-run homers in Toronto's four-run fifth inning. First baseman Ryan Langerhans scored twice and had two of the Blue Jays' 12 hits.

The Rays' loss made things even tighter in the American League wild-card race. Tampa Bay and Texas are even at 90-71 after the Rangers beat the Los Angeles Angels 7-4 earlier in the day.

Later, the Cleveland Indians (91-70) moved into sole possession of the AL wild-card lead by beating the Minnesota Twins 5-1 in Minnesota.

"We've been here before, we've been in these moments," said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. "We never do things seemingly easily so let's just play tomorrow and see what happens."

Todd Redmond (4-2) will get the start today as the Blue Jays go for the three-game sweep.

"We'd like to come back and get one more win tomorrow," Gibbons said. "That's what it's all about. We'd rather be in their position, no doubt about that. But we'll come out tomorrow and play. Hopefully Redmond has a good one and he can finish on a good note and we'll see what happens.

"It's good for baseball, I know that."

Matt Moore (16-4) will get the pressure-packed starting assignment for the Rays.

"It's resiliency to infinity," Maddon said. "You have to come out and be yourselves and go out and play."

Happ missed three months of action this season after suffering a fractured skull and sprained knee when he was hit in the head by a liner on May 7. He has found his form of late after making a minor change to his delivery.

"I've been working and battling and feeling like I was close," Happ said. "I feel like finally the last several starts I've kind of been putting it together. It feels good to end on a good note..."

Happ settled down after a choppy opening frame.

Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist opened the game with a double off the centre-field wall. Sean Rodriguez moved him to third with a sacrifice fly and Zobrist scored on a Wil Myers single.

Happ allowed one walk and had four strikeouts. Toronto reliever Aaron Loup recorded two outs in the eighth inning. Dustin McGowan gave up a run in the ninth before striking out former Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar to end the game.

In the fifth, Goins took a 3-2 pitch over the wall in right field for his second homer of the season. Pillar's drive came on a 2-2 pitch from Brandon Gomes and barely cleared the wall in left for his third homer of the year.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 29, 2013 B12

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