TORONTO — Dominic Leone rejoined the Blue Jays on Wednesday after spending three days on the bereavement list.
When he got into the game, it was like he hadn't missed a beat.
Leone recorded two crucial outs in the seventh inning to help Toronto beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2. Coming in with the bases loaded and a one-run lead, the 25-year-old right-hander struck out Evan Longoria and induced a pop fly from Logan Morrison to keep the Blue Jays ahead.
"It's good to be back, I figured first day out of course I get thrown in there," Leone said. "But ultimately I just wanted to do my job, be aggressive and not back down.
"Longoria's an unbelievable hitter, he's had my number in years past so I really tried to bring the fight to him."
Starter Marcus Stroman, who was charged with two runs — one of them walked in by Aaron Loup before Leone took the mound — greeted Leone on the dugout steps and embraced him after that inning.
Stroman (11-6) went 6 1/3 innings, allowing those two runs and six hits while walking three and striking out seven.
"He's been unreal, man, unbelievable," Stroman said of Leone. "Huge, I mean it's hard to put into words. That was a key spot right there. To come in and get those two outs in Longo and Morrison.
"That's not to discredit Loupy either. Those pitches Loupy made were unbelievable. Obviously they didn't work out in his favour but he competed and he did his job."
Ryan Goins drove in the eventual winning run before leaving the game with an injury.
Goins hit a single up the middle to score Steve Pearce from third base in the bottom of the sixth inning for his 45th RBI of the season. He had to leave the game shortly after when Rays shortstop Daniel Robertson stepped on his left forearm as he was trying to steal second.
X-rays revealed no broken bones.
"It's all good, just a bruise. I'm day to day," said Goins, who didn't have a bandage on the sizeable abrasion on his arm post-game.
Pearce hit a solo homer, one of his two hits on the night, and Jose Bautista drove in a run for the Blue Jays (58-62). Josh Donaldson also had two hits and Roberto Osuna worked the ninth for his 31st save.
Brad Miller had an RBI ground out for the Rays (60-62) and pinch hitter Steven Souza Jr., picked up an RBI on a walk. Rookie Jacob Faria (5-4) allowed three runs on six hits, walked two and struck out two over 5 1/3 innings.
Toronto began Wednesday's contest four games out of a wild-card spot. The Rays were two games back.
Manager John Gibbons exchanged words with home plate umpire Lance Barksdale as he was making the pitching change from Loup to Leone and was ejected from the game.
Bench coach DeMarlo Hale laughed when a reporter pointed out that four of Gibbons's five ejections this season have come during Stroman starts.
"I didn't know that," Hale said with a smile. "I just think it's the moment, you know? It was a big moment and there was some close pitches. Gibby's got the backs of his players and they love him for that."
Catcher Raffy Lopez scored the game's first run, coming in from first base on a Bautista double in the third inning. Pearce extended the lead to 2-0 an inning later, sending a first-pitch offering from Faria over the right-field wall for his 12th home run.
The Rays replied in the top of the fourth. Mallex Smith led off with a double, advanced to third on a ground out and scored on another ground out from Miller. But Goins restored Toronto's two-run cushion in the sixth, cashing in Pearce from third base with his RBI single.
Darwin Barney made a key defensive play in the top of the ninth, snagging a low grounder and tossing it to Rob Refsnyder at second base get Smith for the first out.
"That was a nice play, that probably saved the game right there," Goins said. "That ball goes through, Smith goes first to third and that changes the whole complexion of the game."
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press