ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Toronto needed a strong start from Brett Cecil, and the left-hander delivered.
Cecil won his fifth consecutive start, Alex Gonzalez homered and drove in two runs and the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Thursday night.
“Cecil pitched a great ballgame for us,” Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. “We needed a win.”
Cecil (7-2) allowed one run and three hits over 6 2-3 innings. He has given up six earned runs in 36 1-3 innings over that stretch.
“I didn’t think I had my best stuff, so you had to battle with location,” Cecil said. “Location-wise it wasn’t there. It’s a meaningful win for me to battle like that.”
Cecil is the first Toronto left-hander since Gustavo Chacin (Oct. 2, 2005-Apr. 25, 2006) to win five straight starts.
The Blue Jays had been outscored 19-1 in losing the first two games of the three-game series.
“It’s a great win for us after the first two games,” Cecil said.
Carlos Pena hit his 129th homer with Tampa Bay, which set a franchise record. The Rays have won six of nine against Toronto this season.
“I’m extremely grateful to have an opportunity to do something like this,” Pena said. “A very special day for me. It would have been a lot better if we would have gotten that win.”
Tampa Bay all-star left-fielder Carl Crawford was out of the starting lineup for the second time in the past three games for what Rays manager Joe Maddon called “preventative maintenance.” Crawford did pinch run and steal second in the ninth.
“There’s nothing wrong,” Maddon said. “We just want to get him off his feet, especially on the (artificial) turf. He’s always had trouble with this particular field.”
Maddon said Crawford will play in all three games of an interleague series with Florida that starts on Friday.
Kevin Gregg, who allowed a leadoff homer to Sean Rodriguez, pitched the ninth to record his 15th save. He struck out Hank Blalock with two on and two out.
“He got the job done. It wasn’t easy,” Gaston said. “It’s never too easy beating that club over there.”
Rays right-hander Wade Davis (5-6) gave up three runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings.
Gonzalez put the Blue Jays up 1-0 on a second-inning homer. The Blue Jays, who lead the majors with 98 homers, had not gone deep in the previous 20 innings.
Pena tied it at 1 in the bottom of the second on his fifth homer over the past four games.
“We gave ourselves a great shot,” Pena said. “We’re going to lose some games. It’s good to see even when we come up short, at the same time we give ourselves a good opportunity to come out victorious at the end.”
Toronto went up 2-1 in the third on Adam Lind’s RBI single. Gonzalez added an eighth-inning sacrifice fly.
NOTES: Tampa Bay signed Georgia Tech SS Derek Dietrich, taken in the second round of this year’s amateur draft. ... Gaston spoke highly of Tampa Bay’s rotation, saying the Rays “probably have the best five starters in baseball.” ... Rays C Dioner Navarro didn’t play due to a stiff neck. ... Toronto placed INF John McDonald on the bereavement list and purchased the contract of minor league OF Dewayne Wise. ... Tampa Bay SS Jason Bartlett, on the 15-day DL with a strained right hamstring, remains on track to return next week. ... It was the Rays’ 1,000th regular-season home game. Tampa Bay is 490-510.