I think that Drew Smyly would like to replay this game. But he's also probably sick of replay.
It's not that he didn't have success against this tough Blue Jays lineup. He did. In the first inning he showed what he's capable of by dominating Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista in sequence, setting up Donaldson with high pitches and then making him look silly swinging at a curve in the dirt, and then blowing a high fastball past Bautista.
But unfortunately for Smyly, he didn't just have to face the fearsome sluggers. He also had to face Josh Thole. And Michael Saunders. Now generally, Thole is the type of catcher Rays fans are used to seeing hit, but Smyly hung him a curve, which he sent high and deep to right field.
It may have been gone, or it may have been just short, but an older gentleman in a Rays jersey leaned over the railing and pulled it in. Rays fans—please stop. We have to hear all the time about how there aren't so many of us, which is something that those of us who care can't really do much about. But we can at least try to be good fans. And that means, at the very least, not helping the other team win.
Anyway, the umpires called the play a fan-interfered double on the field, but on replay it was turned into a home run. I don't know how the umpires decided there was an angle with enough evidence to overturn the call, but I can't argue too much, because they probably got it right, and anyway, blame the fan.
In the fourth inning, Smyly got Bautista to swing at a curve on the outside, got the pitch to the end of his bat, and broke the bat. But Bautista still muscled a hit into center field. Then Edwin Encarnacion pulled a pitch into left field, and Bautista went first to third, taking advantage of Desmond Jennings's arm. Troy Tulowitzki took a low pitch and drove it to center field, scoring Bautista easily.
Then things got weird.
Chris Colabello flied to the foul line in right field. Steven Souza Jr. ranged to his left, made the catch just over the foul line, and then dropped the ball as he attempted a quick transfer for a throw. The umpires, however, said that he failed to make the catch, and that he failed in FAIR territory. Both teams challenged.* After more than five minutes, the call was changed, and both teams won their challenge.
Edit: Well, Cash claims that he didn't challenge the play according to Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. So all of this happened on the Blue Jays challenge.
*The Jays only needed to challenge because Logan Morrison made a heads-up play, realizing what the call was when no one else did, and calling for the ball at first after the runner had stopped running.
And then against Michael Saunders—the first batter he faced after the replay break—Smyly promptly gave up a home run to straight center that Kevin Kiermaier was one inch away from bringing back to the right side of the wall.
An inning later, Smyly gave up yet another home run, this time to Donaldson, on a breaking ball right on the bottom-inside corner of the zone. That one's okay. Sometimes Josh Donaldson is going to do that to you.
On Offense (Kevin Kiermaier)
The Rays offense was okay. They put 12 men on base to the Blue Jays nine, with eight hits and four walks. But they couldn't get the big hit at the right time. Steven Souza Jr. drove a knuckleball to opposite field for a home run, but there was no one on base.
The rest of the runs, as well as the most exciting moment of the game for Rays fans, came off the bat and the legs of Kevin Kiermaier, so let's get straight to the Outlaw:
- In the second inning, Kiermaier grounded a single into right field, and took a big, aggressive turn, as he always does. Jose Bautista has a very strong arm, and he has a lot of confidence in that arm. And he has a shoulder on his chip. He wants people to try to run on him. Bautista fielded the grounder quickly, but rather than just fire the routine throw to second, he considered the big turn, and he paused. I swear that their eyes met, each player daring the other to try it. Bautista accepted the challenge and threw being the play. KK accelerated immediately and beat the relay from first to second. He popped up, clapping his hands, yelling "Let's go!" to the Rays dugout. Love it.
- In the fifth inning, Kiermaier led off and singled into center. Curt Casali grounded up the middle and Kiermaier aggressively went first to third. That might have been a rash decision with no outs, and Pillar being a very able fielder, but the throw to third was offline. Then, with Logan Forsythe at the plate, a wild knuckleball got past Thole, and KK sprinted home right in front of the tag (R.A. Dickey's attempt at a sliding tag was actually very impressive—you can tell he's had to make that play a few times in his career)
- Finally, in the sixth inning, Desmond Jennings beat out a grounder for an infield hit, chasing Dickey from the game. Brad Miller walked, and Souza was fast enough down the line to stay out of a double play. Against Jesse Chavez, Kiermaier showed a quick bat, lining a single into center field to bring home the run.
Danny Farquhar's Debut
We got to see Danny Farquhar for the first time in the regular season. He has a pretty odd delivery, with his arm seeming to come through the zone late, and also being out of an odd slot, where the release point is low and to the side, but the action is still over the top. Farquhar pitched the last out of the seventh inning and got the first two outs of the eighth (allowing two men on base to start the inning). His approach seemed to be fastballs and and cutters up, and then excellent changeups down. The changeups to Edwin Encarnacion were worth watching.
There's no video yet, but if it appears, we'll link it. If you have mlb.tv and want to see what Farquhar has, watch the EE at bat (third batter of the eighth inning).
I think that the trick for Farquhar will be about getting to pitchers' counts without getting hurt, because his fastball-cutter combination is more tricky than overpowering. If he can do that consistently, though, he should have plenty of ways to put hitters away.
Some other notes:
- In the fourth inning, there was an extended discussion of Jose Bautista's demonstrative bat flip in game five of the 2015 ALDS. Not that anyone cares, but I am 100% for Bautista's bat flip. Baseball should have genuine excitement, genuine emotion. I love to see that bat flip in that moment. I also love to see Kevin Kiermaier yell as he pops up after baiting and then beating Bautista's arm. One can respect their opponent and respect the game without conforming to some old white guys' idea of what a gentleman looks like.
- I found a trick. When your mlb.tv on a Roku freezes during one of those annoying, poorly made commercials mlb.tv is now inserting, and you back out of the app and then reload it, you get the game with no announcers and full stadium sound. It happened twice (the trick may just be to load the game while it has you marked as being in a commercial, since I think when they switch you to a commercial you're actually in a different stream).
- I am so tired of Kris Bryant telling me about his first time in Chicago. Yeah, there are a lot of people. Yeah, they're Cubs fans.
- Hank Conger's swing looks like it's actually pretty fast to me. I can see why he was once thought of as a very good offensive catching prospect. It just has never quite come all together for him in the majors.
- Enny Romero came in to face one batter in the eighth, and once more blew him away with a great fastball.
- The Rays brought the tying run to the plate multiple times. Corey Dickerson wins the "If I Would Have Hit That It Would Have Tied The Game" award for his big swings in the fifth inning.
- People in the GDT had some fun rec'ing everying to make the roll call long. I said that was fine, since it's no extra work to just paste all the html, even if it is long. I guess I lied. What I really should have said is that it's very little extra work to just pick a cutoff and not paste the whole thing. Sorry for not being 100% accurate. We do strive for accuracy here at DRaysBay.
- In the seventh inning, lefty Brett Cecil came on in relief, so Steve Pearce pinch hit for Morrison. He hit a hard fly ball to deep right-center field, and Kevin Pillar showed why he's a top-3 defensive outfielder in the game. Playing fairly shallow, he covered a ton of ground, leaped to make the catch at full extension, and then tumbled head-first into the wall, hanging on despite what was clearly a painful collision. The man is good. Watch the video.
|Roll Call Info|
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