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Rays vs. Jays, game 1 recap: Tampa Bay wins HR Derby in Toronto

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After an early power surge, Price and the Rays bullpen calmed the game down. The Toronto bullpen could not do the same.

Bob Levey

I thought the home run derby came before the all-star game. Edwin Encarnacion homered against David Price in the first inning (after Jose Bautista came close). Ben Zobrist answered with a solo shot of his own in the third inning, but the Jays' J.P. Arencibia took back the lead with another solo dinger, and Bautista made up for his earlier warning track power with a towering two-run shot to bring the score to 4-1. The Rays were not done, though. Wil Myers homered to opposite field in the fourth inning, and Evan Longoria and Kelly Johnson brought the game even (Rays 4, Jays 3 in derby scoring) in the sixth.

For the past three games, David Price has made a mockery of baseball. He's simply thrown strike after strike, walked no one, gotten into three run counts against no one, and somehow not given up hits either. He's thrown an 87 pitch complete game shutout. Pitchers aren't supposed to be able to do that, and tonight, against better opposition than Price has recently faced, it didn't quite work.

The Blue Jays have some extremely good hitters, and they knew exactly what Price was going to do. They already have a reputation as an aggressive hitting ball club, and they were not about to wait around and let David Price strike them out. In that situation, Price only needed to put a few fastballs into too-hittable spots for the Jays to hit them hard. Credit to Price for making and adjustment to keep the Jays off balance with his secondary offerings, while continuing to pound the zone.

So that's Price's excuse. What's Esmil Rogers's? He only gives up home runs to the Rays, apparently, but he gives them up to the Rays in droves. Price lasted seven innings, Rogers five and two thirds.

With two outs in the top of the seventh, Ben Zobrist got aboard with a luckily placed nubber off the end of his bat. John Gibbons elected to intentionally walk Longoria, and bring in all-star lefty Brett Cecil to face Luke Scott. Unfortunately for the Gibbons, Cecil walked Scott on four pitches, to set up the less inviting matchup against Wil Myers with the bases loaded. Cecil quickly got ahead in the count, though, and got Myers to fly out harmlessly to short right center.

Johnson started off the eighth inning with a single against Cecil. Joe Maddon pinch hit for Matt Joyce with Sean Rodriguez, forcing Gibbons to make the call for the all-star righty Steve Delabar. Maddon let S-Rod hit, but asked him to bunt, which he did, advancing Johnson to second. That left Jose Molina and Ryan Roberts the task of getting the man in. Molina hit a line drive but right to the center fielder, Rasmus. Roberts, newly back in the majors due to James Loney's paternity leave, picked him up with a liner of his own into short left field and KJ, running on contact, made it home to score the go-ahead run. Jennings scored Myers to tag on an insurance run with yet another well-hit line drive.

Joe Maddon then made a curious move, sending out Kyle Farnsworth rather than Joel Peralta out to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning. Farnsworth walked Encarnacion, and then was immediately pulled for Peralta, the usual eighth inning pitcher. What was Maddon doing? I think he probably thought Peralta was getting complacent in his role as setup man. To stay sharp, he probably needs more leverage, more danger. Maddon is a great leader of men. Peralta did his job (although he did walk Maicer Izturis), with some defensive help from Longoria at third.

The Rays tagged on two more runs in the ninth, partly due to some overambitious defense by Jose Reyes, to dramatically lower the leverage. Jake McGee came on and finished the game, despite giving up a home run to Brett Lawrie on a lame duck slider that brought the final tally to 8-5 (4-4 in home run derby scoring).

Some other notes:

  • The fans at the Rogers center were in good voice tonight. It was striking, even through the TV set. That's what a stadium should sound like.
  • In the bottom of the fourth inning, Matt Joyce made a terrific diving catch after a short run toward a sinking line drive. Why do I highlight good defensive plays by Joyce in low leverage situations? Because other people jump all over his bad plays, and I think his fielding gets misrepresented.
  • Holy crap Jose Reyes has a strong arm.
  • In the bottom of the sixth inning, Colby Rasmus hit a chopper to Longoria that stayed up long enough for Evan to have no chance of making a play. He probably should have gone with prudence, but instead he chose valor, and Kelly Johnson bailed him out of a throwing error with a good snag at first. Longoria redeemed himself by catching a hard line drive off the bat of Arencibia to end the inning. Longo then caught another hard liner in the eighth off the bat of Rajai Davis, possibly saving a run.

UPDATE: Here's a GIF of the Myers oppo, courtesy of D-Russ
Click to make it dance.

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