ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Toronto Blue Jays found their rip cord Friday night. The Tampa Bay Rays keep started plummeting faster again.
Steve Tolleson's two-run single in the ninth inning helped the Blue Jays momentarily stop their freefall in the American League East standings with an 8-5 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
"Big win," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We had a lead there. We coughed it up, but came through in the end. We needed that, the way things have been going."
Tolleson, inserted at second base as a replacement for injured starter Munenori Kawasaki, flicked a Grant Balfour pitch down the right-field line, scoring designated hitter Dan Johnson, who had led off with a walk, and shortstop Jose Reyes, who doubled him to third. That gave the Blue Jays a 7-5 lead, and first baseman Jose Bautista (2-for-4, two RBIs) added an RBI single after left fielder Melky Cabrera walked.
"It was embarrassing, really, for me to go out there and do that," Balfour said. "I know I'm better than that. I'll take full responsibility for the loss on my shoulders and come back out here tomorrow."
Toronto (49-45) lost 15 of its last 22 games to squander a 4 1/2-game lead and drop 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles, who also won Friday. Tampa Bay (42-53) had won nine of 12 to steady their plummet, but fell 11 games back in the East with the loss.
Balfour (0-3) took the loss after allowing three runs on two hits and two walks in a third of an inning.
Right-hander Aaron Loup pitched earned the win after pitching a spotless eighth. Casey Janssen pitched the ninth for his 14th save.
The win at Tropicana Field was unusual for Toronto, as Tampa Bay dominated the Blue Jays there, earning at least a split in 20 consecutive series. It's the longest such streak since the Rays went 25 straight at Fenway Park without a series win from 2002-08.
Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle was in position for his 11th win this season after allowing two earned runs on nine hits and a walk with three strikeouts.
"That's not acceptable," Buehrle said. "It's a little frustrating on that part, but take the All-Star break, get a good break, try to refresh yourself and come back."
However, Tampa Bay designated hitter Sean Rodriguez tied the game in the seventh with a three-run homer off right-hander Dustin McGowan. The reliever had walked third baseman Evan Longoria and first baseman James Loney in succession with two out before Rodriguez belted his ninth homer of the season, giving him 12 RBIs in his last 14 games.
"I love the fact we fought back tonight, how we fought back," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
McGowan didn't retire a batter, allowing three earned on a hit and two walks.
The Rays got just one run -- on a sacrifice fly by Longoria -- after loading the bases with no outs to start the game against Buehrle.
The Rays failed to score after packing the bases again in the second, albeit with two out.
Toronto was more efficient, scoring three against Rays starter Chris Archer after loading the bases in the third. After center fielder Colby Rasmus led off with a single and Johnson walked, Reyes (3-for-5, two runs, two RBIs) singled off second baseman Logan Forsythe's glove to load the bases. Kawasaki singled to tie the game 1-1, Cabrera did the same to give Toronto a 2-1 lead, and Bautista upped it to 3-1 with a sacrifice fly.
Reyes' two-run, two-out single in the fourth gave Toronto a 5-1 lead.
Tampa Bay bunched three consecutive singles to trim the deficit to 5-2 in the bottom of the inning, with right fielder Ben Zobrist's line drive to left scoring Forsythe (2-for-4).
Archer allowed five earned runs on six hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in five innings.
NOTES: Blue Jays DH Adam Lind will likely return from the 15-day disabled list in two to three weeks, according to the Toronto Star. He has a non-displaced fracture near his right big toe after hitting a foul ball of it in Baltimore on June 14. The injury was expected to require six to eight weeks to heal, but a recent examination revealed unexpected progress. ... Rays LHP Jake McGee was placed on the paternity list after the birth of his first child. ... Rays SS Yunel Escobar was activated from the 15-day disabled list after rehabbing a sore right throwing shoulder. ... Rays C Ryan Hanigan was scratched from the lineup with back soreness and replaced by Jose Molina. ... Toronto had not won at least 49 games before the All-Star break since 2006 (49-36).