The Rays looked poised to continue to play the spoiler against the contending Toronto Blue Jays. Led by a strong showing from Chris Archer, the Rays led this game into the sixth inning before the bullpen collapsed, ending a chance at a sweep against a first-place Toronto club.
Like the first two games of the series, the Blue Jays struck first. Dioner Navarro, who seems to now exclusively hit well against Tampa Bay, hit a two-out dribbler on a 2-2 count to single home Edwin Encarnacion for the game’s first run. Navarro was caught a little off the base by a deceptively sneaky Bobby Wilson, however, to end the inning. The Rays struck back immediately, however. Three straight hits by Forsythe, Kiermaier, and Evan Longoria (his 35th double of the season) tied the game up and put a runner on third base. Two batters later, Matt Duffy flared a ball not overly deep to right field, and Kiermaier took advantage of Bautista’s weaker arm to run home and score the go-ahead run.
The third inning looked to be the one that would cause Chris Archer to unravel. Instead, the Rays took an even greater lead by the end of it. With two outs, Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson reached base, putting the dangerous Encarnacion at the plate. A wild pitch from Archer put both men in scoring position, a mere bloop single away from a Blue Jays lead. Instead, Archer struck out Edwin on a full count, and hopped off the field pumping his glove.
Like the mini Blue Jays rally, the Rays got something going all with two outs, only they were able to capitalize. Three straight ground ball singles from Matt Duffy, Souza Jr., and Corey Dickerson pushed a run across the plate to give the Rays a 3-1 lead. J. A. Happ, who not even a month ago shut down the Rays on August 10th, seemingly couldn’t buy luck tonight, and was removed after Dickerson’s single. He went 2 and 2⁄3 innings but pitched 85 pitches in his second shortest start of the season.
In the fourth, Russell Martin struck out and had a few words for the umpire as he walked off the field. John Gibbons quickly interceded to keep his player from being removed, and was himself ejected.
After that stressful third, Chris Archer settled down for a while. After allowing a one-out single to Troy Tulowitski, Kevin Cash removed him in favor of Brad Boxberger. Archer went 6 and 1/3, picking up nine strikeouts on 105 pitches. Unfortunately, Boxy did not fare as well as Archer did. For the rest of the inning, Boxberger managed to allow two runs to tie the game on two hits and two walks, losing Archer’s ability to pick up the win.
In the next inning, the Rays would give up the lead on a two-run home run from Russell Martin from Kevin Jepsen. Game over. Rays lose 5-3.
This AL East odyssey continues next week with a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. Matt Andriese will face off against Ubaldo Jimenez in St. Pete as the Orioles look to make up ground in the home stretch.