It turns out that there is more than one way to lose to the Toronto Blue Jays. I know you were wondering. I know you thought that maybe the trick to losing to Toronto was to give up a bunch of home runs, and that no other way would do. Not so.
The Rays took a tense 2-2 game into the bottom of the ninth. To start the inning, new backup catcher Ali Solis replaced Jose Molina (who had been hit in the facemask by a foul ball) and Juan Carlos Oviedo replaced Jake McGee. Dionner Navarro lead off for the Jays, and he hit a ground ball hard and into the shift, but close enough to second base to find a hole. Toronto manager John Gibbons lifted Navi for the speedy Kevin Pillar, and the move immediately payed dividends.
Andrew Gose bunted on the first pitch, a changeup down the first base line. There was some confusion, as Oviedo's initial move was toward the third base line. It's possible that it was close enough to the plate for Solis to take charge, but he didn't. Oviedo got to the ball with little chance to throw Gose out, but he still tried, throwing from his knees. His throw was wild, and Sean Rodriguez -- newly moved to first after a pinch hit and screened by the runner -- was unable to make a play. While the ball went into right field, Pillar flew around the bases to end the game.
The sad part is that this game should never have been in doubt.
It started out just like the other two this series, with the Blue Jays offense looking like world beaters. Jose Reyes lead off and lined an elevated fastball back up the middle. After Melky Cabrera flied out, Jose Bautista dropped a fly ball in front of Wil Myers. Normally that's a ball that a right fielder gets to, but Myers was playing very deep because Bautista tends to hit baseballs very deep. Next, Chris Archer walked Adam Lind, which set things up for Edwin Encarnacion. He who flipped a line drive the other way into right for a two-RBI single.
It seemed like the game might get out of hand in a hurry, but Archer ended the inning by striking out Juan Francisco and Brett Lawrie swinging, and then proceeded to cool off the sizzling Jays bats for the next five innings. His final line was 100 pitches thrown over six innings, with two runs allowed on six hits, two walks, a hit-by-pitch, and seven strikeouts. That's an outing that the Rays will take from Archer.
On the other side of the ball, Liam Hendriks is a fringe major league pitcher, and the Rays treated him as such. He also pitched six innings, only allowing three hits while walking no one and striking out five Rays, but his box score doesn't tell the whole story. The Rays hit him hard, just not quite hard enough. Put this one on the clubhouse manager, because the Rays lineup seems to have not eaten their Wheaties.
Right after the Jays had scored, in the top of the second, Matt Joyce hit a fly ball to straight center that bounced off the top of the wall for a double. It was okay that his hit didn't make it out of the park because Wil Myers immediately scorched a line drive over the left field wall. The broadcast reported his speed off the bat at 104.8 mph.
None of the other Rays fly balls would have enough carry after the second inning, and they sure did hit a lot of fly balls. There were more decently hit flies than I took notes on, but let me highlight a few:
- With a man on first base in the third inning, James Loney hit a fly ball to left-center that Gose pulled off the top of the wall.
- Leading off the fourth, Desmond Jennings hit a moonshot just a few inches foul, and then followed it up with another fly ball to edge of the warning track.
- In the sixth inning, Evan Longoria pulled a changeup to the top of the left-field wall, but Cabrera made a leaping grab right before running into the padding.
I think you get the picture. This was a very frustrating game to watch.
Some other notes:
Dustin McGowan looked very good out of bullpen tonight. He was once a pretty good starter who had his career path changed by a series of injuries but he put it all together against the Rays. Absolutely filthy changeup.
- Joyce hit a double off a lefty.
- Archer hit Bautista with a 98 mph fastball up and in. BA thought there might be retribution, regardless of intent, but the game was too close, and there was no room for drama.
- Jose Molina was eventually pulled after taking a fouled Jake McGee fastball to the facemask in the eighth inning. He was knocked out of his crouch and appeared unsteady for a second, but while being checked out tried to convince the Rays that he was okay. One batter later, the home plate umpire thought that the Rays needed to take another look, and called them back out. Once again, Molina convinced them that he was able to continue, and he finished out the inning. Apparently though, the Rays changed their mind, and left him on the bench for the ninth. Molina takes a ton of foul tips off his facemask, but this one really did look bad. Let's all hope that Molina's brain is okay (not just because Ryan Hanigan is already on the DL).