This was the fastest marathon game you’ll ever see, mostly because Chris Archer and Aaron Sanchez took turns being awesome for the first hour-plus. Basically, you could have probably fit the first six innings today into yesterday’s first inning. Did it bog down later? I guess so. But eleven innings in under four hours is still pretty good.
Archie mowed through the first twelve hitters he faced before finally giving up a single to lead off the fifth, on an 0-2 change up to Kendrys Morales. And Morales would be erased on a double play later in the inning. He was sharp, is what I’m saying, and he deserved better than he got.
Sanchez wasn’t quite as sharp, yielding an infield single and a steal by Mallex Smith in the second, and a walk to Brad Miller and a single by Steven Souza Jr. in the fourth. But he made it through unscathed. He was not as fortunate in the fifth, when the Rays finally broke through.
Derek Norris started the inning with a single, and Mallex Smith followed with the first of his three walks on the night. Then with Tim Beckham at the plate, the Rays eschewed the bunt. It seemed the baseball gods might make Cash pay for his hubris when TBex hit a relatively sharp grounder to Donaldson at third to start the around-the-horn double play. But a hustling Smith made a difficult turn at second impossible, allowing Beckham to beat the relay throw.
Corey Dickerson followed with a sharp single to center to score Norris, and the Rays were on the board.
They might have even had more, but Kevin Kiermaier followed with a soft liner to deep short that had just a touch too much air under it, allowing Tulowitzki to make the grab, and Evan Longoria lined sharply to Devon Travis at second to end the threat. But judging from the way Chris Archer was pitching, you thought maybe one run would be enough.
It was not enough.
In the seventh, Archer lost the zone. Back-to-back walks by Donaldson and Bautista to lead off the inning brought up Kendrys Morales. With one strike, Morales lofted an 88 mph slider toward the left field line. The Trop held its breath as the ball sliced maybe a foot foul. On the next pitch, Morales ripped a 95 mph fastball on the ground, right to Brad Miller, who started a 4-6-3 double play. The Trop exhaled.
Unfortunately, that was only two outs. Tulo followed by turning around the next pitch and grounding it past a diving Tim Beckham and into left field. 1-1 game.
Inexplicably, Archer was back out to start the top of the eighth. This was a crime. Not so much because his pitch count was so high (it was pushing 100) but because 1) he really labored in the 7th, and 2) we were well into the 3rd time through the order. Yes, the pen was short tonight, but Archer had given them enough length to compensate for that. Sure, we might be in trouble if the game went 12 innings, but couldn’t we worry about that in the 12th?
For his part, Archer continued to battle. But he deserved better from his manager. Archie walked Russell Martin on six pitches to start the inning, then gave up a single to Justin Smoak that sent Martin to third. He did bounce back to get Pillar to pop out to the catcher, and then struck out Devon Travis on four pitches. But with Donaldson coming up to start the fourth time through the order(???!!!???), the totally expected happened: A single to center, scoring Martin.
Tommy Hunter came on to strike out Joey Bats and keep it a 2-1 game. Props to Tommy. Too bad you weren’t in earlier.
The offense bailed out their manager and their gutty starter in the bottom of the frame. With Joe Biagini on to pitch for the Blue Jay, Evan Longoria started things with a one-out single to right. Following a Brad Miller walk, Souza lined one to center, scoring Longo and tying things up again.
The teams traded chances until the bottom of the eleventh, when Mallex Smith got it going once again, this time with a double to right off the new Jays pitcher Casey Lawrence. After TBex bunted him over to third (a nice redemption after a failed sacrifice attempt in the ninth), John Gibbons put the new intentional walk rule into effect, waving Dickerson and Kiermaier over, and bringing Evan Longoria to the plate with the sacks full.
The victory party was temporarily put on hold when Longo fanned on three pitches. But fear not! Brad Miller’s got this, and in the most exciting fashion possible: a thrilling, six-pitch, walkoff-walk. Mallex Smith, who spent so much of the game running around the bases (2 for 2, 3 walks, 2 steals) finally got to touch home plate.
3-2. Ball game.
- Mallex Smith on the bases was really a sight to behold. His lead was enormous, with his back foot past the dirt cutout. And it seemed his lead got bigger with every throw over. I mean, this lead against Biagini was probably one of the shorter ones of the night, and just look at it!
- There were Blue Jays fans at the game wearing chicken suits. I have no idea what that was about.
- I’m sure we’ll have more on this later, but to my eye test, there weren’t many of those “slow sliders” tonight from Archer. Not many changes either. Mostly heat and hard sliders.
- Hunter didn’t come back out for the ninth, only pitching to the one hitter. So I’m really puzzled what Cash was saving him for.
- Alex Colome was very sharp in the ninth, and Erasmo Ramirez looked exceptional after he came on in the middle of the tenth and in the eleventh. Xavier Cedeno, who started the tenth, struggle finding the zone, and the Jays didn’t bail him out.