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Rays 7 Jays 2: The return of the three run bomb

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Robertson gets first MLB start at short; Souza erupts; Sucre gets three RBI

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays 7-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays capped off a successful 5-2 opening homestand.

Today’s game featured Jake Odorizzi starting for the Rays, and Marco Estrada for the Jays. Marco Estrada is a very good but not great pitcher, but in 2015 he had a remarkable stretch in which he took no hitters into the 8th inning two starts in a row. That memory is powerful enough that I was relieved when Kevin Kiermaier legged out an infield single in the first inning.

On Saturday night Chris Archer showed us, especially in the early innings, what it looks like when an elite pitcher is on his game. On Sunday we saw what it looks like when a good pitcher can’t find his usual groove – but yet manages to find his way to a quality start nonetheless. But that ending wasn’t predictable from his first inning.

Jays Score in First

With one out, Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson crushed a home run to right field. Indeed, Brian Anderson and Dewayne Staats were quite prescient, noting that Donaldson is always looking for an elevated pitch to hit out, followed by an elevated Odorrizi fastball that was indeed hit out. A walk to Jose Bautista and a Kendrys Morales double into the alley for put runners on second and third with one out. Bautista scored on a ground out, and the Blue Jays led 2-0.

But that was pretty much it for the Blue Jays offense. Odorizzi, Jumbo Diaz and Tommy Hunter combined to hold them to a hit and a HPB from the second through the ninth inning.

But Rays Score in 3rd, 4th and 8th

The Rays, meanwhile, had an effective and multi-faceted offense.

There were home runs: a solo shot for Dickerson to get the Rays on the board in the bottom of the third, followed by Souza’s three run shot. Later in the game Jesus Sucre added a solo home run of his own.

There were patient walks and hustle triples and infield hits. There were timely hits of the well-struck and the bloop variety. Some noteworthy offensive performances: multi-hit games from Kiermaier, Daniel Robertson and Sucre (who also knocked in three runs).

Finally, there were enough runs so that Cash could avoid sending Colome out for the third game in a row – which presumably makes him available for tomorrow.

Emotions running high

There were also some fireworks. Souza and Troy Tulowitzki exchanged words after a Souza slide into second base in the second inning. Here is a description of the offending play by a Blue Jays writer:

Although Souza’s slide was a bit awkward and maybe a tad late, it did not seem particularly egregious to me, and I was surprised that Tulowitzki took exception to it. However, the etiquette umps at the stadium reviewed the play and backed Souza:

The tension may make more sense when you remember that there is some history here, as last September Souza and Tulowitzki also had a confrontation at the end of a game for reasons so ridiculous and convoluted I can’t even start to explain (but you can read about it here). At any rate, benches cleared but in a sort of obligatory way; no punches were thrown and the game resumed quickly.

In the following inning Souza responded with his three-run home run, his reaction to which you can see below:

Then, later that inning, home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski began jawing at the Rays dugout and Kevin Cash in particular; apparently there were comments following a borderline strike three called on Longoria. This may have contributed to some bad blood, so when Kiermaier was called out on a strike three that was clearly a ball (see below)he immediately said something to Muchlinski and was ejected.

Frustrating game for Toronto

The Blue Jays would probably like to forget this game. Marco Estrada wasn’t terrible but gave up three home runs. Troy Tulowitzki bobbled an easy double play ball and was also involved in a botched run-down play (Mallex Smith had gotten caught dead to rights between second and third, but somehow managed to get back safely to second. I saw the play and still don’t quite understand how that happened). Perhaps more worrisome for them longer term is that Josh Donaldson pulled up limping after a ground out and was removed from the game.

Jake Odorizzi -- ground ball pitcher?

Jake Odorizzi should be credited with what is often called a “gutsy” performance. He didn’t have his best stuff; he got hit in the leg by a Bautista line drive and then again by a flying bat. While Odorizzi is known as a fly ball pitcher (with the home runs to show for it), in Sunday’s game he recorded no fly ball outs, but earned eights outs on ground balls. I don’t know whether he adjusted his approach to compensate for struggles locating some of his pitches and ground balls were the result, or whether these outcomes were more random. But Daniel Robertson, getting his first major league start at shortstop, was kept quite busy whereas the three outfielders could have sat at a table at Ducky’s and not been missed.

The Rays travel to New York where Alex Cobb and the slugging Jesus Sucre look to spoil the Yankees home opener.