NEWS
09/13/2016 03:18 EDT | Updated 09/14/2017 01:12 EDT

Ezequiel Carrera's pinch-hit homer lifts Blue Jays to 3-2 win over Rays

TORONTO — Roberto Osuna and Russell Martin both thought Steven Souza Jr.'s deep fly ball in the ninth inning was hit out of the park. Ezequiel Carrera thought his own an inning earlier would hook foul.

Luckily for the Blue Jays, all three were wrong.

Carrera hit a tiebreaking pinch-hit homer in the eighth and Osuna earned his 32nd save of the season in eventful fashion as the Toronto Blue Jays hung on to edge the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Monday.

Benches and bullpens cleared briefly after the final out — a missile to the centre-field warning track with a runner on base that would have given Tampa a 4-3 lead if it cleared the fence — but things quieted quickly and both teams walked back to their respective locker-rooms.

Martin said the short altercation stemmed from him telling Souza Jr., that he thought the ball would carry. 

"There's no story," Martin said. "I told him he crushed the ball and he didn't understand what I said ... and before I could really explain, both teams got in that melee.

"I got to talk to him at the end and we're fine. There's no bad blood or anything."

Toronto's Troy Tulowitzki rushed in from shortstop amid the confusion. Souza Jr., said he didn't appreciate that.

"Troy decided to jump in and say some things that weren't really necessary," he said.  

Osuna, who celebrated his save a pitch earlier before realizing that Martin had dropped a third strike, had to hold his breath as he watched Kevin Pillar backtrack to catch Souza Jr.'s ball.

In the end though, the 21-year-old said it didn't matter.

"To be honest I thought it was gone," he said. "When I looked at Pillar and he was going back, back, back I was like 'oh no.' But I mean, he got it and we won. That's it."

With the game tied 2-2, Carrera turned on a first-pitch fastball from Brad Boxberger (3-1) to lead off the eighth, sending it just over the left-field wall to give Toronto a precarious one-run lead.

It was the first pinch-hit homer for any Blue Jay since Carrera did it last July, and Carrera wasn't sure he'd gotten enough of it at first.

"I didn't think it was going to go out, but then for a second I thought it was going to be foul too, so it worked out pretty well," Carrera said through a translator.

Jason Grilli (6-5) got the win and Jose Bautista hit a two-run shot for the Blue Jays (79-64), who have had a rough go of things this month.

Toronto came into the game having lost three consecutive series for the first time this season, a slide that began with two-of-three losses at Tampa Bay to open September.  

The Blue Jays had occupied sole possession of first place in the AL East as recently as Sept. 5 but are still two games back of Boston after the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 12-2 on Monday.

Evan Longoria and Brad Miller hit back-to-back solo homers for the Rays (60-83).

Francisco Liriano enjoyed a solid start for Toronto. He gave up a lead-off single in the first inning, then retired 14 straight before issuing a two-out walk in the fifth.

The Toronto left-hander had thrown just 72 pitches when he was pulled after allowing two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out six through 6 1/3.

"He was dominating, he really was," manager John Gibbons said. "We were a bit concerned heading into the game, he's had issues with walks in the past ... but he was on from the get-go."

Devon Travis extended his hit streak to nine games with a daring lead-off double in the sixth off Tampa starter Jake Odorizzi. Travis dove into the bag, managing to get his right hand on before the tag. He was called safe and the ruling was upheld after a Tampa challenge.

Bautista drove in Travis two batters later, launching a first-pitch offering over the left-field wall for a 2-0 lead.

Reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson, who's currently mired in a career-worst 0-for-23 slump, was not in the starting lineup. Gibbons said pre-game that he wanted to give his third baseman the night off because "his body's banged up."

NOTES: Odorizzi pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits while walking one and striking out four. ... Tampa Bay was officially eliminated from the AL East division race. ... Attendance was 35,333.