Okay, so it's not exactly heart-stopping drama. You really have to doubt whether Toronto Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero spent a sleepless night Monday in anticipation of this, ah, third-place weekday showdown against the Tampa Bay Rays.

But it's the best carrot the Jays can find these days and this has been a Toronto team that can find motivation in just about any situation. It's a trait that will no doubt one day pay them big dividends.

This weekend, they'll settle for a modest payoff if they can slip past Tampa into third place in the American League East.

They took a step in that direction Tuesday at Tropicana Field with a 3-1 victory behind a one-hit, eight-inning pitching performance by Romero. In the process, they did something they've never before accomplished: they beat Tampa ace David Price, who had gone 8-0 in nine previous starts against Toronto.

Third place isn't exactly where the Jays want to be long-term. But it's a weigh-station on the road to contention. They now sit a half-game behind Tampa and would need to sweep this series to put the Rays behind them.

"We set out in spring training to continue to build on the momentum of a year ago," said Jays manager John Farrell before the game. "We didn't point to a spot in the standings as something that would reflect that but, certainly, this is a series where we come in knowing they're the next team ahead of us and it would be a step forward to play well."

The only hit allowed by Romero was a sixth-inning home run by Tampa rookie Desmond Jennings that cut into what had been a 2-0 Toronto lead at the time. On the night, Romero walked four and hit a batter but pitched himself out of every sticky situation.

"I didn't realize (that I had a no-hitter) until after Jennings hit the home run," said Romero. "I was like, 'Man, I didn't even know I was pitching a no-hitter.' That was my bad. (Jays catcher) J.P. (Arencibia) called a different pitch and I shook to it. If I make the pitch that was called, maybe it's down and he grounds out. But it wasn't meant to happen."

Price gave up five hits and walked a pair, failing to dominate the Toronto lineup as he normally does.

Neither team had a hit until the fourth inning when Toronto's Jose Bautista had a big one, mashing his 32nd home run, his first in the last 15 games (46 at-bats). With one out in the inning, Bautista redirected a 2-0 fastball into the seats in left-centre.