TORONTO — Robbie Ray refused to be upstaged by the Toronto Blue Jays booming bats.
Ray was masterful on the mound, allowing just one hit over 6 2/3 scoreless innings while fanning 10 as Toronto recorded a sweep of the Oakland Athletics with an 8-0 win Sunday.
Ray became the first Toronto pitcher to record four consecutive games with 10 or more strikeouts. After he fanned Oakland catcher Yan Gomes for the second out in the sixth inning, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo replaced Ray with reliever Trevor Richards.
Ray showed no signs of tiring but had thrown 107 pitches. Plus, Montoyo wanted his star pitcher to feel the love of the sellout Rogers Centre crowd of 14,988, which gave Ray a standing ovation as he walked off the field.
"You know Robbie, he probably could have gone 115 (pitches) and he would be fine," Montoyo said. "I was thinking it would be good for the fans to thank him for the year he's had.
"He's probably the best pitcher in baseball right now, from what I've seen."
Ray (11-5) has registered 45 strikeouts in his last four outings. He was all smiles as he entered the Blue Jays dugout with the crowd applauding his latest tour.
"With the stadium as loud as it was, to me, it was great," said Ray, who relied on his fastball in the series finale. "It was one of the best experiences that you can have in baseball."
The win moved Toronto (73-62) to within four games of Boston in the chase for the second American League wild-card spot. The Red Sox dropped an 11-5 decision at home to Cleveland on Sunday.
The Blue Jays finished with 13 hits and 38 for the series, including nine homers, to produce a whopping 29 runs against Oakland (74-63). Toronto will need its offence to remain productive and its pitching solid as it begins a four-game series in New York on Monday against the Yankees.
"Seeing the bats come around, it has been fun to watch," Ray said.
The Blue Jays were a different team after Lourdes Gurriel Jr.'s grand slam in the eighth inning Friday to tie the opener 8-8. Toronto went on to register the 11-10 victory.
"We were done," said shortstop Bo Bichette, who finished the series with a four-for-four outing. "Somehow, we came back and got it done.
"It definitely took a weight off everybody's shoulders and reminded us how good we are. Hopefully, we continue that."
Ray took a no-hitter into the fifth before designated-hitter Khris Davis smacked a double down the left-field line for the only hit Ray would surrender. He also walked three.
Toronto centre-fielder Randal Grichuk made a spectacular warning-track catch in the first. Then the Blue Jays spotted their starter a three-run advantage in the second and increased the lead to seven in the third.
Gurriel scored Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a triple off the right-field fence in the second. Gurriel was knocked in by Grichuk's double.
The Blue Jays sent nine batters to the plate in the third. Marcus Semien led off with his 35th homer of the year.
Guerrero had three singles to extend his hit streak to 13 games. He and Bichette were aboard when catcher Alejandro Kirk homered to left. Guerrero scored on Bichette's double for an eight-run Blue Jays lead in the fourth.
Oakland starter Cole Irvin (9-13) lasted only 2 ⅓ innings.
Recent callup Bryan Baker pitched the eighth for Toronto. After allowing a lead-off single to Chad Pinder, the 26-year-old Baker retired the next three hitters in his Major League Baseball debut.
Nate Pearson struck out three Athletics in the ninth.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 5, 2021.
The Canadian Press