Blue Jays-Rays: Matt Stairs, A.J. Burnett Lead Toronto Blue Jays to Victory

Adam GreuelSenior Analyst IJuly 28, 2008

After being told he was not going to be moved before July 31, A.J. Burnett turned in one of his best starts of the year.

The Tampa Bay Rays would only manage to score one run off of Burnett, and it came in the third inning.

The Rays capitalized on a throwing error by the pitcher with an RBI groundout from Carlos Pena. This meant that the run was unearned and Burnett lowered his season ERA to 4.50.

Burnett cruised through the early parts of the game. He managed to strike out the first five batters who came up to face him!

Unfortunately for him, he would load the bases in both the second and third innings, but he managed to pitch himself out of it with his dominating curveball.

Burnett would finish the game after seven innings of amazing work. He gave up zero earned runs on six hits and he struck out 10 batters.

Scott Downs would pitch a scoreless eighth for his team-leading 15th hold, and B.J. Ryan pitched a one-two-three ninth, earning himself his 20th save on the season.

James Shields, Burnett's counterpart, pitched more than well enough for a victory, but his offense was not able to bail him out.

Going into the fifth with a 1-0 lead, Shields surrendered a two-run shot to DH Matt Stairs.

Shields left it down and away, right where Stairs likes it. This extended Stairs's lead on the team in home runs, giving him 11 on the season.

The Jays would pick up an insurance run on Shields in the eighth inning after Brad Wilkerson and Joe Inglett were able to hit back-to-back triples. Inglett's triple would ultimately end Shields's night.

Overall, it was a great start for Shields, but a couple of mistakes cost him the win. He went seven-and-one-third innings, giving up just three runs on five hits. Grant Balfour got the last two outs for him with no problem.

Since both the Yankees and Red Sox both lost as well, the Jays gained a game on three very important teams.

If Toronto can win tomorrow, with ace Roy Halladay on the mound, the Jays can gain another whole game in the division, no matter what the Sox or Yankees do.

Up next: Staff ace Roy Halladay (12-7) takes on budding youngster Matt Garza (8-6) of the Tampa Bay Rays.