ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Rays believe they have a star in the making in Wil Myers.
The rookie homered in his home debut Monday night, continuing an impressive first week in the majors and helping Jeremy Hellickson beat the Blue Jays 4-1 to end Toronto’s 11-game winning streak.
“He’s very comfortable,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said about Myers. “He’s not overwhelmed whatsoever.”
Myers made his major league debut in Boston at the start of a seven-game road trip that ended Sunday. He hit a grand slam off CC Sabathia for his first big league homer during a loss Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
This time, the 22-year-old outfielder hit the second of three straight Tampa Bay homers in the second inning, connecting in his first at-bat at Tropicana Field.
Myers, who’s hitting .294 with two home runs, a double and seven RBIs after eight games, received a standing ovation and took a curtain call for a crowd of 11,407 getting its initial close-up view of the key acquisition in the offseason trade that sent pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to Kansas City for the power-hitting right fielder and other prospects.
“I wasn’t sure what really to do but everyone kept cheering so I thought that might be my cue to go out there,” Myers said. “Actually, I saw that Zoilo Almonte guy get one (in New York) and everyone got up and kept cheering, so I thought it was the same deal for me.”
Myers’ drive to center off Esmil Rogers (3-3) was sandwiched between home runs by James Loney and Sam Fuld as Tampa Bay went deep three times in a span of eight pitches. Luke Scott added a bloop RBI double to make it 4-0 in the third, and that was all the support Hellickson needed.
The Rays estimated the ball Myers hit, which caromed off a wall beyond center field, traveled 422 feet before bouncing back onto the field.
“The ball comes off the bat hard with him. It makes a different sound,” Maddon said. “He’s one of those guys. And the thing that I like is all this stuff is going through the middle of the field.”
A night after scoring a season-high 13 runs at home to complete a three-game sweep of Baltimore, the Blue Jays were limited to four singles and five walks. They came up short in their bid to extend the longest winning streak in the majors since Detroit won 12 straight in 2011.
Hellickson (6-3) gave up J.P. Arencibia’s single, walked four and struck out four. He allowed only one runner past first base — in the second inning, when Colby Rasmus walked and moved to third when Arencibia followed with his hit to center field.
The Blue Jays stranded Rasmus, who drew three of Toronto’s five walks, when Maicer Izturis grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Toronto finally broke through in the eighth when it loaded the bases with one out against Alex Torres with a pair of singles and a walk. Jose Bautista grounded into a force play to drive in a run before Edwin Encarnacion flied out to end the threat.
Fernando Rodney worked the ninth for the Rays, earning his 16th save in 21 opportunities.
“The three home runs hurt … but their pitching shut us down. That was the story of the game,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “It was a nice little streak. We’ll start another one tomorrow. Losses are never easy, but we’ve been on a nice little roll.”
The Blue Jays’ longest winning streak in nearly 15 years matched the best in club history. They also won 11 straight in 1987 and 1998.
The Rays began the day last in the AL East, one percentage point behind the surging Blue Jays, who gained seven games on Tampa Bay during their winning streak.
Despite the loss, Toronto has won 15 of 19 while outscoring opponents 103-57 to get back into the division race led by the Boston Red Sox.
Loney, Myers and Fuld went deep off Rogers with one out in the second, just the second time in franchise history — first at Tropicana Field — that Tampa Bay has hit three straight homers. Evan Longoria, Willy Aybar and Dioner Navarro did it on June 9, 2008, against the Angels.
Myers also had a single and was caught trying to steal second base in the sixth inning. He’s 10 for 34 overall since being promoted from Triple-A Durham and is the first player in Rays history with seven RBIs in his first eight career games.
“He’s got it all. He’s got a chance to be a really, really good player,” Gibbons said. “It’s all in there.”
NOTES: Toronto plans to activate SS Jose Reyes (left ankle) from the disabled list Wednesday. … Blue Jays LHP J.A. Happ, who suffered a skull fracture and a sprained right knee when he fell to the ground at Tropicana Field after being struck behind the left ear by a line drive on May 7, is expected back at the ballpark Tuesday. Gibbons said Happ, slowed by the knee injury, is throwing off a mound at the team’s spring training complex in Dunedin, Fla., but still has a ways to go before he pitches again. … In preparation for his home debut, the Rays had Myers out on the field early to take fly balls in the domed stadium with the lights on and off. … Blue Jays RHP Brandon Morrow (forearm) has not resumed throwing, while 3B Brett Lawrie (left ankle) is probably a couple of weeks from starting a rehab assignment. … Rays LHP David Price, sidelined since May 15 by a left triceps strain, is scheduled to make his second rehab start for Class-A Charlotte on Wednesday.
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