ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Down seven runs, Toronto easily could have conceded another disappointing loss. Instead, the struggling Blue Jays chipped away until they found a way to pull off their biggest comeback in nearly six years.
J.P. Arencibia hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning off Fernando Rodney, giving the last-place team an 8-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.
‘‘I think this game kind of evens itself out and if guys keep coming with positive attitudes and keep coming ready to work, it’s going to turn. That’s the way this game is, and you’ve got to continue to stay positive and come ready to play every day,’’ Arencibia said after the Blue Jays won for just the fourth time in 14 games.
The last time Toronto rallied from at least seven runs down to win was June 5, 2007, when it overcame an 8-1 margin to beat Tampa Bay, 12-11, according to STATS. Tampa Bay last lost a lead of at least seven runs on May 25, 2009, when Cleveland came back from a 10-0 deficit to win, 11-10.
This time, Evan Longoria hit his third career grand slam as Tampa Bay built a 7-0 lead that Jeremy Hellickson and four Rays relievers failed to protect before a season-low crowd of 9,952 at Tropicana Field.
Colby Rasmus and Mark DeRosa also hit two-run homers for Toronto.
‘‘In a lot of ways we were due, but you don’t expect it to happen that way,’’ Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
‘‘They’ve got a pretty good pitching staff over there, and when they put seven on the board they’re usually going to have a pretty good night,’’ Arencibia added. ‘‘Fortunately, we were able to come back and answer.’’
Toronto trailed, 7-6, when Adam Lind drew a leadoff walk in the ninth from Rodney (1-1), who entered the game with one out in the eighth. Pinch runner Emilio Bonifacio stole second and continued to third on catcher Jose Molina’s throwing error with no outs.
Rodney, eyeing a five-out save, retired the next two batters before Arencibia lined a 2-2 pitch into the left-field seats. Arencibia, who pinch hit in the sixth inning and stayed in the game to catch, hit his ninth home run.
Darren Oliver (1-1) pitched one scoreless inning and Casey Janssen worked a perfect ninth for his eighth save.
‘‘It’s a difficult loss, no question. But it’s about how we react tomorrow,’’ Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Longoria’s seventh homer of the season was the biggest blow in a seven-run third inning against Mark Buehrle, who allowed seven runs and nine hits in six innings.