NEWS
09/14/2016 11:41 EDT | Updated 09/15/2017 01:12 EDT

Alex Cobb dominant as Rays hand struggling Blue Jays fourth straight series loss

TORONTO — Alex Cobb pitched solidly into the seventh inning and Corey Dickerson drove in four runs as the Tampa Bay Rays beat Toronto 8-1 on Wednesday afternoon to hand the scuffling Blue Jays their fourth straight series loss.

Cobb (1-0), in his third start since returning from Tommy John surgery, allowed one run on just two hits with three walks and four strikeouts through 6 2/3 innings. He retired 11 straight between a third-inning walk and a seventh-inning single.

Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier each hit two-run homers for the Rays (62-83), who set a new club record with 200 long balls in one season. Dickerson added two more RBIs on a base hit and a force out, Logan Forsythe drove in one and Brad Miller hit a sacrifice fly.

Edwin Encarnacion had a sac fly for the Blue Jays (79-66), while Marco Estrada, despite a dominant first three innings, fell to 8-9 on the season.

Estrada retired the first nine Rays he faced and became the first Blue Jays pitcher in club history to strike out the first five batters of a game. But he took the loss after allowing four runs on four hits with three walks and seven strikeouts through 5 1/3 innings. 

Tampa Bay outhit the Blue Jays 13-2.

Toronto has struggled through September, opening the month with four series losses for the first time this season.

The Blue Jays have won just three of their last 12 games and were 2 1/2 games behind Boston for first place in the AL East after the matinee tilt. Toronto had held sole possession of the division lead as recently as Sept. 5.

The Blue Jays begin a seven-game West-coast road trip starting Thursday in Los Angeles (a four-game series) followed by a three-game stop in Seattle. The Angels won two-of-three games against the Jays at Rogers Centre in August while the Mariners, who are not far removed from an AL wild-card spot, took two-of-three at Toronto in July.

More concerning for the Blue Jays is the recent absence of all-star Josh Donaldson. The reigning AL MVP sat out Wednesday's game, his third straight, with a hip injury. He was scheduled to have an MRI Wednesday and expected to travel with the team to L.A.

The Blue Jays began Wednesday's game promisingly, using small ball to manufacture their first-inning run against Cobb. 

Devon Travis matched a career-high 11-game hit streak with a lead-off double and moved to third on a Michael Saunders sac bunt. Travis then scored on Encarnacion's sac fly.

It was all Tampa from there, though.

Kiermaier followed Forsythe's lead-off single in the fourth with a home run to right field for a 2-1 lead and Dickerson's base hit up the middle scored Miller from second base for a third Rays run.

Estrada left the game after a one-out single in the sixth, and Dickerson promptly extended the Rays lead to 5-1 with a two-run homer off reliever Matt Dermody.

Toronto ran into a spell of bad luck later in the inning, first when a potential double-play ball ricocheted off reliever Matt Barnes and into the outfield to advance Steven Souza Jr., to third base. Souza then scored when a two-out swinging bunt from Forsythe hugged the third-base line but stayed fair.

Miller added to the barage with a sac fly off Bo Schultz in the ninth. A Dickerson force out off Ryan Tepera scored Evan Longoria for an 8-1 Rays lead.

NOTES: The Blue Jays announced during the game that they had hired former Red Sox executive Ben Cherington as their new vice president of baseball operations.