Who won this game anyway?
On Dan Johnson bobblehead night — with the legend himself on hand to throw out the first pitch (via knuckleball no less!) — the Rays knocked off the Blue Jays 4-3 behind strong pitching from their ace Blake Snell, as Tampa Bay continued their consolation prize chase for a 90 win season.
Blake Snell survived a rocky first inning with just one run allowed, but just barely. Things got off to a stinky start when Jon Berti boofed a single to the right side that Brandon Lowe couldn’t come up with. Berti then swiped second during a Jonathan Davis strikeout. Against the next two hitters, with Snell leaning heavily on the offspeed stuff, he couldn’t find the zone and walked each to load the bases. After a mound visit, Rowdy Tellez lifted a fly into the devil’s triangle in left center. Mallex Smith ran it down for the out, but Berti tagged and scored easily. 1-0 Blue Jays.
A passed ball and another walk followed, loading the bases again. Finally, Snell scrapped his way through a Danny Jansen at bat, striking him out on a 2-2 slider below the zone. Overall, a very fortunate first inning for Blake, who threw just 12 strikes in his 26 pitches.
Snell righted the ship in the second, striking out the side on 13 pitches.
C.J. Cron tied things up for the Rays in the bottom of the second. After successfully checking his swing on the first three pitches, the big first baseman swung away 3-0 and crushed it halfway to Rehoboth.
The dinger made Cron a 30 homer club alumnus.
Snell gave up a couple singles in the third, but also notched his sixth and seventh strikeouts of the game. He added his eighth and ninth during a clean fourth, and somewhere a Blue Jay radio announcer was no doubt lamenting first inning chicken left on the bone.
The Rays neglected to clean their own chicken bone in the bottom of the fourth. Willy Adames led off with a single through the middle. A four pitch walk followed as Borucki fell behind and thought better of challenging C.J. Cron 3-0 a second time. Brandon Lowe was next, and he squared to bunt on the first pitch. But the pitch was outside, and Jansen made a strong throw to pick off a wandering Adames. (The play was reviewed and the call stood, which looked to be the correct call.) Lowe was later called out on strikes on a pitch off the plate that had been getting called all day. Carlos Gomez followed, and caught a break on a missed check swing strike three to draw a walk on the next pitch. But Austin Meadows chopped to the mound to end the threat.
Dan Johnson joined DeWayne and BA in the booth for the fifth. He seemed genuinely surprised and humbled by the statue talk. His description of the 2008 homer against Boston was fantastic, focusing on the noise of the Boston crowd to the sudden silence where he could “hear [his] feet hit the ground.” DanJo’s easy manner in the booth suggests that could have a future there if he wants one.
Also, Snell and Cron made a nifty play on a Davis bunt, and Blake recorded his tenth strikeout. That closed the book on Blake: five innings, one run, three hits, four walks, ten strikeouts, one Cy Young.
Diego Castillo came on in relief of Snell in the sixth and struck out the side. Unfortunately, he also gave up a dong to Teoscar Hernandez onto the tarp in left.
Tommy Pham extended his on-base streak to 31 games in the bottom of the sixth with a hard single to right. He later swiped second, and scored when Brandon Lowe snuck a single through the middle.
That RBI for the #Rays Brandon Lowe gives him 100 this season between the minors and majors.— Neil Solondz (@neilsolondz) September 29, 2018
Castillo worked a clean seventh, recording his fourth strikeout in the process. In the bottom on the frame, Austin Meadows put Diego in line for the win by wrapping one way up around the right field foul pole.
Andrew Velazquez followed by hooking one inside the third base bag for a double, ending Borucki’s night. Mallex Smith followed with an extended at bat against lefty Tim Mayza, finally boofing the eighth pitch into shallow left near the line. Though Smith was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double, Velazquez scored easily in front of him.
Chaz Roe’s and his magic slider came on for the eighth. The second out in particular was vintage Roe. After getting ahead of Grichuk with a fastball, he ran a sweeping slider off the plate that Grichuk waved at helplessly. Then on 0-2, Roe missed location badly, with another slider headed directly for Grichuk’s hip. It of course took a left turn to the inside corner that a hapless Grichuk could only watch for strike three.
Chaz Roe, Wicked 81mph Front Door Slider. pic.twitter.com/v2QnkUczfq— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 30, 2018
The Rays missed an insurance chance in the bottom of the inning. With one out against David Paulino, Adames singled to center. Cron then made a bid for his 31st dinger, but hit foul off the C-Ring. He was later retired on a nifty play from Richard Urena. A four pitch walk to Lowe followed, bringing up Carlos Gomez. But GoGo was called on strikes to end the threat.
Sergio Romo came on to close out the game and struck out pinch hitter Billy McKinney, giving us a false sense of security. But we were all thinking those insurance runs would have been nice after pinch hitter #2 Reece McGuire took Romo deep to right, making it a one run game. Romo buckled down and struck out Urena and pinch hitter #3, Justin Smoak.
The Rays go for win #90 in the season finale tomorrow at 3:10 PM. Sam Gaviglio draws the start for the Toronto, while Ryne Stanek will open for Tampa Bay.