TORONTO — Is this as bad as it gets for the struggling Toronto Blue Jays?
Manager John Gibbons sure hopes so.
Alex Cobb pitched 6 2/3 innings to win for the first time in almost two years, Kevin Kiermaier and Corey Dickerson hit two-run homers and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Blue Jays 8-1 Wednesday, Toronto’s ninth loss in 12 September games.
“I’ve got to believe we’re at rock bottom,” Gibbons said. “I don’t see how much lower it could go. So I’m optimistic that this will turn and turn in a hurry.”
Reigning AL MVP Josh Donaldson sat out his third straight game for Toronto and underwent an MRI on his sore right hip. The results were not immediately available.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to get back out there tomorrow,” Donaldson said after the game.
Toronto holds the second AL wild card after falling one game behind Baltimore, which beat Boston later Wednesday night. The Red Sox lead the AL East by one game over the Orioles and two over the Blue Jays.
“It’s tough but we still control our own destiny,” Donaldson said.
It was the same story against Cobb and the Rays, who have won six of eight at Rogers Centre.
Toronto’s Devon Travis doubled to lead off the first and scored on Edwin Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly, but the Blue Jays didn’t get another hit until Dioner Navarro’s one-out single in the seventh.
“We’re not playing good enough baseball right now on either end,” Gibbons said. “The bats have gone cold, the pitching’s been kind of hit or miss.”
Marco Estrada (8-9) allowed four runs and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He’s 1-5 with a 6.95 ERA in his past seven starts.
“I’m not going to change anything,” Estrada said. “I felt like I threw the ball really well.”
The right-hander struck out the Rays’ first five batters of the game, becoming the first Blue Jays pitcher to open a game with five Ks. Estrada was perfect through three before giving up three runs and three hits in the fourth.
Logan Forysthe singled and Keiermaier followed with a first-pitch home run. Estrada left after Nick Franklin’s one-out single in the sixth. Matt Dermody came on and gave up Dickerson’s homer.
Last-place Tampa Bay now has a franchise-record 200 homers, eclipsing the previous mark of 199 in 2009.
Cobb (1-0) allowed one run and two hits to win for the first time since Sept. 23, 2014, against Boston. The oft-injured right-hander, who recently returned from elbow surgery, had gone 722 days between victories.
“I love winning,” Cobb said. “It’s why starters go out there. You want to win the ball game, you want to work deep.”
Third baseman Evan Longoria called Cobb “the emotional leader” of Tampa Bay’s staff.
“It’s good to have him back,” Longoria said. “I’m happy for him. I know how hard he worked to get back to this point.”
FRONT OFFICE ADDITION
Late in the game, Toronto announced the hiring of former Boston general manager Ben Cherington as Vice President of Baseball Operations.
FOUR OF A KIND
Toronto has lost four straight series for the first time since June 30 to July 12, 2015.
Blue Jays: Donaldson said his sore hip has been bothering him for some time. It hurts most when moving from side to side, he said.
Rays: LHP Blake Snell (5-8, 3.62) faces the Orioles for the first time as Tampa Bay opens a four-game series at Baltimore on Thursday. Snell has faced every other AL East rival at least twice. RHP Yovani Gallardo (5-7, 5.44) starts for the Orioles.
Blue Jays: LHP J.A. Happ (18-4, 3.33) starts against the Angels on Thursday. Happ snapped a three-start winless streak by beating Boston on Saturday. RHP Daniel Wrigt (0-2, 7.50) starts for Los Angeles.