Tonight, the Rays took on the Blue Jays, a team that is in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Jays started the day with the bad news that Kevin Pillar, their talented center fielder, had been placed on the DL with a thumb injury. We certainly know the feeling! Pillar’s injury did allow Rays fans to see something they had not seen for a while: the sight of Melvin Upton, Jr. patrolling center.
Early Innings: Teams Trade Runs
The Jays took a 2-0 lead in the first, thanks to a ball Mikie Mahtook misplayed into a triple; a sac fly, and an Encarnacion home run. While Mahtook’s fielding didn’t help, Odorizzi was not particularly sharp, and needed 26 pitches to retire the side. The same could be said in the 4th inning, when the Jays tacked on two more runs. Odorizzi hit a batter, had many deep counts — but wasn’t helped much by his defense, as catcher Wilson failed to corral a pitch in the dirt that had Donaldson struck out. Instead of ending the inning, the Donaldson strike out loaded the bases for an Encarnacion single that plated two runs. The pitch was scored a wild pitch, but it’s one that the defense-first Wilson maybe could have managed to block.
Odorrizi left in the middle of the 6th, leaving two men on base. He had thrown 107 pitches, giving up 8 hits, three walks and four earned runs. This was one of his weaker performances in recent weeks: in his previous four starts he’d given up a total of 2 runs.
Although the Rays have had some good offensive games against Dickey, whenever I see him I flash back to the near perfect game he pitched against them in 2012, his Cy Young year. Tonight’s Dickey was neither unhittable nor ineffective. Helped in the first inning by an insanely wide strike zone, he was able to keep Rays hitters off balance until the fourth inning, when the Rays started squaring up some hittable knucklers. Three doubles produced two runs in the fourth, with even Mikie Mahtook, who started the game with a wRC+ of 4, contributing. A single, HBP and double brought in another two runs in the fifth, ending Dickey’s night.
By the end of the sixth inning, both starters were gone and the score was tied, 4-4.
Missed Scoring Opportunities
In the 6th inning, Souza opened with a well hit double, but was tagged out on his way to third on a weak grounder by Beckham, who swung away after failing to put down a bunt. Souza may have been running on contact and unable to assess the play, which makes sense if you are hoping to score from second on a single. But it was a shame to lose the runner, especially since the next batter was Bobby Wilson, who apparently used up all his offensive magic with his weekend home run. He grounded in a double play, his second of the night.
Rays threatened again in the 7th after a Forsythe walk and a Kiermaier double put men at 2nd and 3rd. Longoria struck out, however, and Miller then hit a fly ball to relatively deep right field. Bautista has a very good arm and normally you might not want to challenge him. But BA and Dewayne had been noting, all night, that Joey Bats seemed to be playing injured, as his throws were pretty wimpy. Well, if the broadcast crew notices this I would assume that the Rays on field personnel would notice as well — and send Forsythe from third. You would take the chance he would be thrown out, but the alternative is counting on Mahtook to deliver a two out hit (he didn’t).
Scoring Opportunities for the Other Guys
In the bottom of the 7th, Blue Jays loaded the bases, thanks to two walks from the normally reliable Xavier Cedeno. Cash then brought in Dylan Floro. Floro had previously appeared in 9 games, and never in all of them has he pitched a clean inning, so bringing him in with two on and none out is quite a high risk strategy. Floro started by walking Russell Martin, but then rebounded to strike out Upton and get a slow grounder from Smoak to force the runner at the plate. It seemed as though he just might get out of this jam.
But that was not to be, as Devon Travis singled -- a ground ball up the middle that was almost but not quite playable -- and Jose Bautista doubled, and the Blue Jays were ahead 7-4.
Since the 2016 Rays don’t do comebacks (although Forsythe did manage a solo homer, making the final score 7-5), this meant it was time to check out the synchronized diving competition over on the Olympic Games broadcast.
The Player Formerly Known as BJ:
You’ll be happy to know that those of us who knew him way back when are excused if we forget he now goes by Melvin Upton, Jr
The Player formerly known as Boxxy:
Appearing in his highest leverage situation of the year (two on, one out, score tied), Boxberger notched strikeouts of Donaldson and Encarnacion. An effective Boxberger certainly gives the Rays bullpen a better look for 2017.
The Player formerly known as the Rays 2010 8th inning shut down guy:
Joaquin Benoit is still pitching! He’s 39 years old and still managed to get Longo swinging on some nasty change ups.