The Rays and Blue Jays traded opening shots in the first inning with a pair of solo shots by Lucas Norichika Duda and Aoki, who hasn’t hit a home run since JFK was president. Archer, however, would manage to settle in for most of the game, whereas Chris Rowley never seemed to find that perfect stride. In the second the Rays took the lead on yet another home run (by Corey Dickerson!) and they weren’t done yet. Wilson Ramos, who is slowly starting to come around the plate (hopes for next year!), smacked a single to left, and was followed by a Brad Miller walk. With two outs, Kevin Kiermaier, whose shining blue eyes are a joy to see in center field, reached on a triple to center, scoring Ramos and Miller. A crooked inning in the second inning! It’s like it’s June all over again.
The third inning was rather uneventful, except for Kevin Pillar’s ejection by the home plate umpire. Archer was settled into a groove, and throwing well, collecting strikeout after strikeout. An inning later, the Rays put Brad Miller and Adeiny Hechavarria on base with one out, yet didn’t manage to get anything out of it. It would be one of the rare missed offensive opportunities for the Rays, which really helps out the old blood pressure.
The fifth inning was a bit of a defensive clown show, with weird mistakes just being made left and right. With one out, Archer struck out Miguel Montero, but the ball skipped past Wilson Ramos, and despite the strikeout Montero reached first. I’ve always found the “dropped third strike rule” sort of the most arbitrary rule in the playbook. It does sort of work as an extension of that unique baseball idea that the defense must get the player out, but still it’s sorta weird, and they always seem to bite the Rays in the butt. Remember Cobb’s four-strikeout inning where he still allowed a run? Me too.
Ezequiel Cabrera then hit a sharply hit ball that Souza dove for, but completely and utterly whiffed on. The ball, like the ball to Ramos, skittered past Souza to put two RISP for the Blue Jays. Both of these players would score, pushing the score to 4-3 Rays. Yet the Rays would take advantage of a Blue Jays foible as well, stretching a double into a three-bagger. After two quick outs (with a Souza intentional walk sandwiched therein) the Rays still managed to capitalize, thanks to a blooper hit by Ramos to score Longo.
Archer’s final inning in the sixth was a solid one, and he departed after allowing three runs (one earned) and collecting ten (!) strikeouts. A fine bounceback performance after the rough one against the Blue Jays the other night. And just for kicks, the Rays pushed another two-out run across the plate in the sixth. 6-3 Rays. I know, it’s amazing!
Dan Jennings (who relieved Chris Archer) and the Jays pitcher Tim Mayza traded zeroes in the seventh inning. Josh Donaldson, whose name I would honestly be happy never hearing again, smacked a long ball in the eighth off of Tommy Hunter, who might be finally regressing. Hunter pitched around the homer though, collecting two strikeouts to complete the inning.
But boy do they make it interesting. Alex Colome, who has been quite the workhorse the past few days, nearly blew the save. With nobody out, El Caballo permitted a single to Kendrys Morales, and a double to Steve Pearce, both of whom can totally crush the Rays with their pinky finger if they wanted. A sac fly put Pearce (who was lifted for a pinch runner) on third base with one out, and things seemed to be sinking. Colome, to his credit, came back with a big weak grounder to second base, one not even the speedy pinch-running Rob Refsnyder could commit to. Ryan Goins worked to make it interesting, but lined a ball right at Souza. Rays hang on by the skin of their teeth, win 6-5.