TORONTO — A group of fans wearing blue wigs decided against K signs for each home strikeout at Rogers Centre, opting for HR placards for each Toronto drive instead.
They got plenty of work Saturday.
The Blue Jays became the first team to hit eight homers in a game in three years, getting two apiece from Aaron Hill and J.P. Arencibia in a 17-11 victory over the slumping Tampa Bay Rays.
“I’ve never seen anything like it for a team that I’ve played for or against,” said Jose Bautista, who hit his major league-best 34th. “It was just one of those days, the balls kept going out of the yard.”
Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion and Lyle Overbay also connected for the Blue Jays, who lead the majors with 175 homers.
“I’ve played a lot of games and I imagine I could remember if that ever happened, but no,” Lind said.
It was the most homers in a single game for the Blue Jays since they hit a major league-record 10 against Baltimore on Sept. 14, 1987. Toronto scored in each of the first seven innings and set season highs in runs and hits (20).
“You think they’re going to get a couple during the course of every game, that’s just how they’re built,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I guess they made up for not getting any (in Friday’s 2-1 win).”
The New York Yankees were the last team to hit at least eight homers in a single game, according to STATS LLC, going deep eight times in a 16-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox on July 31, 2007, at Yankee Stadium.
The eight homers are the most allowed in a game by the Rays, whose losing streak reached a season-high four. Only the Yankees and San Diego have yet to lose four straight this season.
“A lot of teams would have just packed it in a lot sooner,” Maddon said. “We did not.”
Called up from Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday, Arencibia homered on the first pitch of his first at-bat, a two-run shot to left in the second. He added another first-pitch homer in the sixth, a solo drive to right off Dale Thayer, and finished with four hits.
“I could never have imagined this, ever,” an emotional Arencibia said as he fought back tears at a postgame press conference. “I was pretty surprised because my first at-bat I really wasn’t that nervous. I was pretty even-keeled and then after that I was pretty comfortable in the box.”
The rookie gave his mom, who was in the stands, and his new manager a debut to remember.
“J.P. had a heck of a day, one that he can go back and tell his grandkids about,” Cito Gaston said. “I don’t know if anyone would believe it though.”
Arencibia became the first Blue Jays player to homer in his first career at-bat since Junior Felix on May 4, 1989, against the California Angels.
“For him to come out there and show that it doesn’t faze him to be making his debut and have a day like that is unbelievable,” Bautista said.
Hill went 3 for 5 and matched a career high with four RBIs in his first multihomer game.
Reliever Brian Tallet (2-4) pitched three innings for the win, Jason Frasor worked the eighth and David Purcey got one out in the ninth before Casey Janssen finished.
Rays right-hander James Shields (10-10) became just the eighth pitcher in the modern era to surrender six homers in a single game, and the first since Texas’ R.A. Dickey gave up six against Detroit on April 6, 2006.
“Disgusting is pretty much what it was,” Shields said. “There was nothing going right. I was out of rhythm, my timing was off, I didn’t hit any spots and they took advantage of it, obviously.”
All nine hits off Shields went for extra bases, including three doubles. He allowed eight runs in four innings to lose for the first time in five starts. The right-hander yielded just five homers in his previous six starts.
“To me it felt like the usual life in his fastball was not there,” Bautista said. “I don’t know how he felt, that’s just the way I saw it in the batter’s box.”
The Blue Jays hit three solo shots in the third to build a 6-2 lead. Lind led off with his 15th homer and Hill followed with a drive to left, the ninth time Toronto has hit back-to-back shots. One out later, Encarnacion homered to left, his 12th. It was the 28th time the Blue Jays have hit three homers in an inning.
Bautista led off the fourth with a shot to left and Hill belted a two-out drive, his 18th.
Toronto added five more off Thayer in the fifth. Vernon Wells drove in a run with an infield hit, Lind hit a two-run single and Hill followed with a two-run double.
Overbay joined the homer parade with a three-run drive to right off Chad Qualls in the seventh, his 13th
B.J. Upton hit an RBI double and Dan Johnson singled home a run in the third for the Rays, who got three more in the fifth, chasing left-hander Brad Mills. Upton drew a bases-loaded walk, Johnson hit a sacrifice fly and Evan Longoria drove in a run with a grounder.
Johnson hit a two-run homer off Brian Tallet in the seventh, his first.
The Rays scored four in the ninth off two relievers. Reid Brignac hit a sacrifice fly and Travis Snider’s throwing error brought in a second run. Gabe Kapler added an RBI double and Willy Aybar drove in a run with a groundout.
NOTES: Tampa Bay optioned Thayer to Triple-A Durham and activated RHP Andy Sonnanstine (left hamstring) off the 15-day DL after the game. Sonnanstine will start Sunday in place of RHP Jeff Niemann, who will skip a start because of a sore right shoulder. … Rays OF Carl Crawford was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight game after playing 11 straight on artificial turf during Tampa Bay’s recent homestand. Crawford is expected to return to the lineup Sunday.