TORONTO - The news continued to get worse Monday for the Tampa Bay Rays, who began the game with left fielder Desmond Jennings on the disabled list. Starting pitcher Jeff Niemann suffered a small fracture in his right fibula.
The weather around this team, as manager Joe Maddon likes to say, is stormy. And, as Maddon also says, the Rays play well in stormy weather.
So, it should be of little surprise the bullpen picked up eight innings and the offense took advantage of two fifth-inning mistakes by the Toronto Blue Jays and won, 7-1.
Cesar Ramos, who earned his first big league win with three innings of work, led a parade of relievers that held the Blue Jays to three hits and a run during the final eight innings.
Elliot Johnson extended his hitting streak to a career-best six games with an RBI single in the fifth inning that tied the score at 1. The Rays broke it open later that inning when Luke Scott and Sean Rodriguez added back-to-back two-run doubles.
But the big news was the loss of Niemann, who will miss from four to six weeks and possibly more. X-rays taken at a nearby hospital revealed the fracture, which occurred in the first inning when he was struck in the area by a line drive off the bat of Adam Lind.
Niemann scrambled to field the ball and make the play at first base. He retired the next batter to end the inning, had the ankle taped while the Rays went down in order in the top of the second, then returned to the mound.
"I watched him walk out to the mound and I didn’t like the way he was walking. I was watching him throw, and I didn’t like the way he was throwing," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Maddon pulled Niemann from the game and called upon Ramos. Niemann returned to the clubhouse after the game, his right foot in a walking boot.
With Niemann gone, the Rays will need another starter, but Maddon made is sound like it won’t be Wade Davis, who has made a nice transition to the bullpen this season.
"I really like what he’s doing in that role," Maddon said.
The replacement will come from Triple-A Durham and could be Alex Cobb, who pitched well for the Rays last season.
Maddon said he and executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman had yet to discuss that after Monday’s game.
"It’s a big loss," Maddon said. "We’re constantly having our depth tested. The impact will be felt based on his replacement."
The win was the Rays’ second straight and moved them back into a tie for first place with the Baltimore Orioles, who lost to the New York Yankees. The Rays can finish the eight-game road trip at .500 with a win tonight.
The victory was made possible by Ramos and company. Davis pitched two innings and J.P. Howell, Burke Badenhop and Jake McGee followed with one each.
Ramos allowed a run on two hits and three walks.
"Cesar has not pitched in a while," Maddon said. "Was not sharp with the command early, but nevertheless had really good stuff, got us through three and the rest were outstanding."
The Rays were held hitless through four innings by Brandon Morrow. That changed in the fifth when Will Rhymes opened with a double down the left-field line. When it was over, the Rays scored enough runs for the victory.
"To win a game like this," Maddon said, "is very unusual."
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