Opening Day: when everything thing is new and everybody is undefeated. Then Chris Archer does his best vintage Scott Kazmir impression, and it all goes south. But that's okay, we'll get 'em tomorrow. Right?
Sorry for the delay in getting up this recap. I had the privilege of being at the game with my best friend and his four year old grandson, Kayden. It was Kayden's first ballgame. So you'll excuse me if we had bigger stakes than winning the opener; we were making a baseball fan. Shirtsies were worn. Tanks were touched. Nachos were noshed. This was a win for the home team,regardless of the final score. Kayden's favorite part? "The ice cream. But I didn't like the part where the guy hit the ball." Luckily, that didn't happen very often.
Now about that game.
A Rough First Inning
Chris Archer didn't look smooth in his bullpen warm ups, and it didn't look any better when he got to the mound to start the game. As legendary commentor Imperialism noted in the GDT, it was 404 fastball command not found. After retiring Kevin Pillar on a groundout to Brad Miller, Arch gave up a full-count single to Josh Donaldson and a full-count walk to Jose Bautista. He then proceeded to wild pitch the runners over, followed by a two RBI single from Edwin Encarnacion. After another full-count walk, this one to Troy Tulowitzki, Jim Hickey was out for a visit. I don't know what he said, but it worked, as Archer K'd Chris Colabello and Michael Saunders, the first two of what would be twelve strikeouts on the day. But the 34 pitch inning was going to make it tough for Archer to get much past five.
There was actually quite a bit of action over the next few innings, even if there wasn't much in the way of scoring. After two quick outs (which would be a recurring theme), the Rays got things going in the bottom half of the frame with a double from Evan Longoria just inside the first base bag. Unfortunately, he was stranded there when Colabello made a nice play on a Corey Dickerson grounder to first.
Though Archer set down the side in the second and third innings, he wasn't able to do so efficiently. The second inning started with the first (but unfortunately not the last) "Loney makes that play" of the day, as Frosty bailed out his clunky first baseman, Logan Morrison. Later, a two-out double by Pillar would extend the second, and a leadoff walk to Bautista in the third put him the stretch yet again. And the deep counts kept adding up, even if a lot of them did end in strikeouts.
So This Happened
I can't even.
Rays Get on the Board
The Rays finally drew blood in the third. Hank Conger led off the inning by singling through the shift. Then, after Logan Forsythe reached on a fielders choice and Morrison moved him over to second on a soft tapper to the mound, Longo drove in the season's first run with a line drive single to right. Dickerson then reached on a error by second baseman Ryan Goins, and you thought maybe there was more life in this rally. But Desmond Jennings grounded out to end the threat.
Loney Makes That Play - Part Deuce
Morrison flubbed another liner in the fourth, allowing Saunders to reach. He would come around to score after singles from Goins and Pillar. Meanwhile, Archer's strikeout total and pitch count continued to mount. He would be out of the game after five, giving up the three runs -- two earned -- on five hits and three walks, with an Opening Day franchise record 12 Ks.
Return of the Overboogie
With two outs in the fourth, Kevin Kiermaier hit a liner to right that Joey Bats Lomo'd, just totally flat out dropped it, letting KK scoot in to second with Conger at the plate. But then, inexplicably, KK tried to swipe third on ball four to Conger. It was one of the worst baseball plays you'll see this week. We love Kevin, but bless his heart, he has got to stop doing stuff like this.
Outs Were Made
The middle innings were as uneventful as the early innings were weird. After Archer's exit, Enny Romero worked a clean sixth, his fastball at 94 to 98, and overall looking very relaxed as he varied his delivery. Ryan Webb came on to pitch seventh. He pounded the zone, working a clean, efficient inning. Then he came back out to work the eighth. He continued to pound the zone. Hey, you know what happens sometimes when you just pound the zone against the Blue Jays? Especially when you have stuff like Ryan Webb? You give up two-run shots to Troy Tulowitzki. 5-1, Jays.
The Rays had spent much of the evening being very aggressive going after Stroman. Part of that was strategy, but part was also Mike Everitt's large zone. As a result, Stroman entered the ninth at just 91 pitches, only 24 of which were balls. But if you want something to hang your hat on, the good guys did not go quietly into the night. On an 0-2 count, Big Swinging Dickerson did this. Then Desmond Jennings singled, and they finally got the Toronto ace was out of the game.
Robert Osuna came in, and promptly sat down Brad Miller and Steven Souza on strikes. But still, the Rays weren't done. After DJ took second on defensive indifference, Kiermaier singled to center, scoring Jennings and bringing the tying run to the plate. But after a defensive indifference and a wild pitch, Conger tapped out to the mound to end the night.
- There was quite a bit of carping from both sides about the zone. I assume this means it was called evenly. But it's hard to tell from Section 318.
- I didn't have a problem with the aggressive approach. It was either attack, or let Stroman put you in a hole. Dude was on, and sometimes you gotta tip the proverbial cap.
- George Wendt did a terrible Take Me Out to the Ballgame. But at least his first pitch was on line, even if it was on a hop.
- The lack of shenanigans in the bottle race was disappointing.
- Go Rays
Kayden's Closing Thoughts
- This is the best day of my life!
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