TORONTO - Toronto Blue Jays starter Carlos Villanueva said he was feeling “terrible” on Thursday.
He didn't show it against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Villanueva (7-4) allowed five hits and a walk while striking out seven over six shutout innings and the Blue Jays defeated the Rays 2-0 for their second victory in a row.
The only two runs came on a bases- loaded double in the first inning by Kelly Johnson who had a three-hit game.
“Carlos was fighting a low-grade fever all afternoon and through the six innings he pitched tonight,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. “But he was again outstanding.”
“Terrible,” Villanueva said when asked how he felt. “But I guess I conserved enough energy to go out there. Followed the plan with Jeff (catcher Mathis), we had a good plan today, we had a good rhythm and it worked out well.”
Despite the victory, the Blue Jays (59-71) are 8-19 in August as they hold last place in the American League East.
The Rays (71-60), who entered the day four games out of first place in the AL East, have lost five of their past six.
He won for the first time since July 27 against the Detroit Tigers. He lost four consecutive decisions over his previous five starts.
“It's just satisfying to beat Tampa for me,” Villanueva said. “They have given me a lot of trouble since I came to the East last year.”
“His changeup is really good and the slider I saw from him came out of his hand like a fastball,” Rays’ right-fielder Sam Fuld said. “That's the definition of good offspeed stuff is the stuff that looks like a fastball out of the hand and that was certainly the case tonight.
Casey Janssen pitched the ninth to earn his 18th save in the opener of a four-game series.
Rays’ left-hander Matt Moore (10-8) allowed six hits, three walks and two runs in six innings. He also struck out seven. It ended a string of four consecutive wins over his previous six starts and was his first loss since July 22.
“Matt wasn't really sharp but he got through it well,” Rays’ manager Joe Maddon said. “I can't really get on a young pitcher who gives up two runs in six innings. When you don't score any runs you can't cover any mistakes.”
The Blue Jays scored the game’s only runs in the first inning. Johnson, who was 4-for-27 on the 2-6 trip that ended Wednesday, drove in both runs with a double into the right-field corner.
Edwin Encarnacion started the rally with two-out walk, Adam Lind singled and Yunel Escobar walked to load the bases for Johnson who entered the game batting .223.
The Rays had their first two batters in the second on base after Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce singled. Jeff Keppinger sacrificed the runners to second and third. But Villanueva retired Luke Scott on a foul to the catcher and struck out Jose Lobaton to end the inning and start a string of six consecutive strikeouts.
“I think that’s where his experience coming out of the bullpen as a reliever really comes into play for him,” Farrell said. “He doesn’t let the game unravel on him, he doesn’t allow it to speed up. He continues to execute one pitch at a time and makes key pitches in big moments.”
Villanueva went on to strike out six in a row to equal a club record. It has been done three other times the team history, the most recently by left-hander J.A. Happ on Aug. 17 against the Texas Rangers.
The Rays had two more singles in the fifth but Villanueva retired the final two batters on a fly and a line out to left field.
Villanueva was removed after 94 pitches and left-hander Darren Oliver took over to pitch a 1-2-3 seventh. Right-hander Wade Davis matched him in the seventh after replacing Moore.
Brad Lincoln sent down the Rays in order in the eighth.
“It was a low-grade fever, if it was anything more severe we certainly wouldn’t have pushed it,” Farrell said. “When he got through the sixth inning on (94) pitches he had pretty much hit the wall physically and was pretty well done at that point.”
Villanueva began the season in the bullpen and then became a starter when injuries hit the starting rotation. He will be eligible to be a free agent after the season and he would like to remain a starter if possible.
“The way I’ve been treated here it would be disrespectful for me not to consider coming back if they want me back,” Villanueva said. “Right now I am enjoying myself as a starter and as long as I can stay healthy, I don’t see a reason why I couldn’t be a starter and help somebody out in a starting role. I want a chance to do it.”
Farrell wouldn’t comment beyond this season when asked if he would like Villanueva in the Blue Jays rotation next year. “That question will be answered in good time,” he said. “If nothing is done before the end of the season, he has earned his right to test the market. We have every intention to keep him in the rotation until the end of the season.”
Notes: Attendance at Rogers Centre was 22,711.... Right-handed reliever Jason Frasor (forearm) pitched a clean inning with two strikeouts Thursday for single-A Dunedin on a rehabilitation assignment and could rejoin the Blue Jays on Saturday when rosters expand. ...Catcher J.P. Arencibia (fractured hand) could rejoin the Blue Jays about Sept. 10. ....Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow (7-5, 3.06 ERA) will start Friday against Rays’ right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (8-9, 3.42 ERA).