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Slugger Jose Bautista leaves Blue Jays loss to Rays with left knee bruise

The Toronto Blue Jays nearly lost a lot more than just a game.

Slugger Jose Bautista left after five innings with a bruise below his left knee in the Toronto’s 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

Bautista hurt his leg on Ben Zobrist’s first-inning homer, hitting the right-field fence hard while attempting to make a catch. Mark Teahen hit for Bautista in the sixth inning.

“We feel like we dodged a bullet,” Toronto manager John Farrell said. “It could have been something much more severe. There’s a little bit of a gap in that padding out there and there’s a little bit of exposed metal and that was the impact.”

Bautista is not expected to play in Monday night’s game against the Chicago White Sox, but hasn’t ruled out returning before the regular season ends on Wednesday.

“If I’m good to go, I’m going to play,” Bautista said. “I don’t see any reason to sit on the bench if I’m healthy.”

Swelling in the knee area eventually forced Bautista, who leads the majors with 43 homers this season, from the game.

“It started getting more sore,” Bautista said. “It was hurting when I was running. Figured it was time to get out of there.”

B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Kelly Shoppach also homered for the Rays, who have won 27 games in a row when scoring five runs or more.

Wade Davis (11-10) allowed two runs and three hits in eight innings, and Joel Peralta finished for his sixth save in eight chances.

“Davis was very solid,” Farrell said.

Nine games back of the Red Sox heading into play on Sept. 4, Tampa Bay would move into a tie for the wild-card lead if the Yankees completed a sweep of Boston in their day-night doubleheader.

“It’s more about the ascension of the Rays right now,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Obviously, they’re struggling a bit and that happens. But from our perspective, it’s more important what we do. It’s fortuitous that they’ve had a hard time, but I love the fact that we’re taking care of business.”

Upton homered with one out and Zobrist hit an inside-the-park homer to right with two outs, also off Brett Cecil (4-11).

“I can’t be up in the zone and pitch well,” Cecil said. “I don’t know … I think the only good thing I can take out of the season is that I was over 200 innings. For as many losses as I have, I found myself pitching in the sixth and seventh inning a lot.”

Cecil gave up four runs and five hits in 3 1-3 innings. He is 0-7 with a 5.16 earned-run average in his past 10 starts.

“Today was the same issue,” Farrell said. “Inconsistent location through a given at-bat. When he made a mistake up, he paid for it.”

David Cooper hit an RBI double in the second, but Longoria’s two-run homer made it 4-1 in the third. He has driven in 82 runs over his past 95 games.

After Toronto’s Dewayne Wise had a solo homer in the fifth, Shoppach hit a sixth-inning shot.