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Pinch hitter Heredia homers in Rays big inning, Tampa topples Blue Jays 8-4

TORONTO — Marcus Stroman had a supportive chat with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on Sunday after the Blue Jays second baseman made a costly error that led to his removal from the game.

TORONTO — Marcus Stroman had a supportive chat with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on Sunday after the Blue Jays second baseman made a costly error that led to his removal from the game.

The gist of the message was that his teammates would be there to help the 25-year-old infielder over the mental hurdle he seems to be facing on the field.

"I love Gurriel," Stroman said after Toronto's 8-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. "I went up to him after he was taken out, we had a little talk. I have the utmost confidence in him to make every play. He's made a ton of great plays behind me last year and this year and he's just battling something.

"We all go through things in the big leagues that we have to figure out. ... we all have confidence in him. It's just a phase for now."

Gurriel bounced an easy throw to first base on the would-be final out of the third inning, taking his second throwing error in as many days.

Tampa capitalized by tying the game two batters later, then took the lead with two runs following a throwing error from Stroman. The Rays piled it on with a five-run eighth inning.

Pinch-hitter Guillermo Heredia highlighted the late offensive burst for the Rays (12-4) with a two-run homer, Kevin Kiermaier hit a run-scoring double and pinch-hitter Mike Zunino brought home two more with a single.

Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo yanked Gurriel from the game after his errant throw, replacing him in the field with Alen Hanson.

Montoyo said it was best to take Gurriel out at that point, and said a demotion to triple-A Buffalo was a possibility.

"It's a young kid struggling mentally with his throwing right now and I talked to him and he said: 'yeah, I feel it.' So we have to be careful with that," Montoyo said. "The future's bright with Gurriel and we don't want to make it worse than it is so that's why we took him out of the game."

"We're going to be talking to him of course," Montoyo added. "It's going to be Ross (Atkins, the GM) and the whole coaching staff talking about it and seeing what our next plan is for him."

Billy McKinney hit a two-run homer in the ninth to give Toronto (5-11) late life. Freddy Galvis also homered and drove in two runs.

Stroman (0-3) lasted just four innings, allowing three hits and three runs — all unearned — with three walks and five strikeouts.

He needed 15 extra pitches to escape the inning after Gurriel's error in the third, walking the next batter before Brandon Lowe hit the game-tying RBI single. Stroman threw 69 pitches over three innings.

The Rays scored two after Stroman's error on a Kiermaier grounder in the fourth. Austin Meadows drove in Kiermaier to give Tampa the lead and Yandy Diaz made it 3-1 with an RBI single. 

"It was a grind, man but it is what it is," Stroman said of his outing. "I had to take more time between pitches, I just tried to really focus on limiting damage and making key pitches."

Charlie Morton started for the Rays, allowing a run and four hits over 4 2/3 innings. Reliever Adam Kolarek (1-0) earned the win.

Galvis cut into the deficit in the seventh, launching a Ryne Stanek pitch over the centre-field wall.

Galvis also drove in the game's opening run in the first, bringing in lead-off hitter Billy McKinney from second with a single off Morton.

"I think Gurriel is going to be fine," said the veteran Galvis. "It's just a matter of time to get a few days of practice in. Besides that, coming from me I think we have to stay together, try to talk a little bit and try to help each other to get better."

Toronto's Thomas Pannone offered a bright spot for the Jays, pitching three perfect innings in relief — including an immaculate fifth where he struck out all three batters on nine pitches.

Randal Grichuk also made a highlight-reel play in centre in the second. With a runner on second and two out, Grichuk robbed Willy Adames of an RBI and extra bases, sprinting to track down the hard-hit liner and leaping for the catch at the wall.

NOTES: The game took three hours 41 minutes. ... Attendance was 20,512. ... The Blue Jays begin a seven-game road trip against Minnesota (four games) and Oakland (three) on Monday.

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press