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Must C Crushed: Encarnacion launches a mammoth blast

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays might be out of the playoff picture, but they are going down with a fight.

A day after winning in dramatic fashion by throwing out a runner at the plate, the Blue Jays mounted a late-inning comeback and promptly got a taste of their own medicine.

Omar Vizquel, who represented the tying run in the ninth inning, was thrown out at the plate by Rays center fielder B.J. Upton to end the game -- and Toronto's three-game winning streak -- as the Blue Jays fell, 5-4, in front of 20,478 at Rogers Centre on Saturday.

"You always think you have a chance to score. But the throw was pretty good. I [watched] the video and it was in the air all of the way," Vizquel said. "I think that was the only way they could get me."

With two out and Vizquel on second, Colby Rasmus laced a ball to Upton that had Vizquel thinking about tying the game the second it left his bat. But Upton made a phenomenal throw and catcher Jose Molina blocked the plate and stopped Vizquel dead in his tracks.

It was less than 24 hours after Blue Jays right fielder Moises Sierra threw out Elliot Johnson at the plate to win Friday's contest.

"I know it was a good throw and I got the ball, and after that he hit me," Molina said. "What I did, I don't really know what he did. I just [tried] to avoid having him score. I did and we won the game, and that's all that matters."

Vizquel and Blue Jays manager John Farrell said they have never seen a game end on consecutive days with a play at the plate.

"B.J. Upton probably has one of the strongest throwing arms out of anyone in this league," Farrell said. "We forced him to throw a strike -- and he did."

With someone else on base rather than the 45-year-old Vizquel, the outcome may have been different. But Farrell said he had no one faster to turn to on the bench.

Before the drama-filled ninth, the Blue Jays chipped away in the eighth after entering the inning down, 5-2.

The Blue Jays loaded the bases before Adam Lind stroked a two-run single off reliever Joel Peralta to make it a 5-4 game.

Tampa Bay replaced Peralta with closer Fernando Rodney, who responded by re-loading the bases after issuing a five-pitch walk to Yorvit Torrealba. But Rodney clamped down to strike out both Kelly Johnson and Moises Sierra to end the threat.

"It's an exciting finish. Fans are getting something, everything they come here for. Competitive baseball, good, clean, hard baseball that has been played here," Farrell said. "We're putting ourselves in a position to win, and that was the case again today."

Toronto was only forced to climb back due to the continued struggles of young right-hander Henderson Alvarez.

Alvarez faced the minimum amount of batters through the first two frames, thanks to inducing his American League-leading 27th double play to end the second. But he ran into trouble the following inning.

The Rays sent nine men to the plate as part of a four-run third inning, which started with a Ryan Roberts solo homer -- the 25th Alvarez has surrendered this year, which is the fifth most in the AL.

Alvarez, who fell to 7-12 and watched his ERA climb to 5.04, lasted five innings -- the fifth time in his past six starts he has been unable to reach the sixth -- and surrendered four runs on five hits, while walking four and striking out a pair.

Against the Rays, he has been even worse. He dropped to 0-4 with a 6.35 ERA, while surrendering 32 hits in 22 2/3 innings versus Tampa Bay this season.

The 22-year-old's ERA soared to 6.56 since the All-Star break, and he hasn't won since July 28. But besides the four-run third, Farrell was pleased with Alvarez's performance.

"I thought he threw the ball aggressively. He had very good stuff today," Farrell said.

Edwin Encarnacion cut the 4-0 deficit in half in the fourth inning by blasting a 3-2 changeup from Rays reliever J.P. Howell an estimated 488 feet off the facing of the upper deck in left for his 36th homer of the season. It was Encarnacion's second home run in as many days and sixth in his past 14 games. The homer snapped Howell's streak of 27 1/3 scoreless innings, which is a Rays record.

Howell entered for starter Jeff Niemann, who was forced to leave the game earlier in the inning with tightness in his right arm.

Encarnacion had a chance to do further damage with two on and two out in the fifth, but an ill-advised double-steal attempt proved unsuccessful and took the bat out of Encarnacion's hands.

Rajai Davis broke for third base, but Rasmus had a late jump to second and was easily thrown out to end the threat.

Farrell said Davis was not given the green light to run on the play and that Rasmus, the trail runner, broke to second instinctively.

"I saw him go, so I took off. I didn't get the best jump and [Rays catcher Jose Lobaton] threw me out," Rasmus said.

While Davis is the best basestealer on the team, it was an unnecessary play -- and no manager likes to see an inning ended on the bases with his best hitter at the plate.

"With Edwin at the plate, at that time of the game down two runs, that's a pivotal point in the ballgame," Farrell said.

Toronto, which has lost 16 of its past 22 games against the Rays, will look for the series win on Sunday with Ricky Romero on the mound. The Blue Jays have lost five consecutive season series to the Rays.

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