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Rays 4, Jays 0: Bullpen shuts out Toronto

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Rays, working with expanded rosters, had a true bullpen day in tonight’s 4-0 win against Toronto. Their offense, while stymied at first, came through with a three run eighth to seal the victory.

The Rays looked like they would get on the board early, loading the bases on a single and two walks in the first. In the television broadcast, Brian Anderson reminded us that Blue Jays pitcher Ryan Borucki had been struggling, with .340 average against, and with the first inning a particularly tough one for him. While that seemed to bode well for a big start, in fact Willy Adames struck out to end the inning with no damage done.

If you tuned in at the start of the Jays half of the first you might have thought you were seeing a rerun of Monday’s game, with Ryne Stanek on the mount. But in fact Kevin Cash was doubling down on Stanek as the opener. This time, however, he was a little shakier. Devon Travis opened with a double and moved to third on a grounder, and Stanek then hit Kendrys Morales with a 97 mph fastball. The next batter, Randal Grichuk took three balls and things were not looking good.

But then Stanek came back to strike out Grichuk; on the last strike Kendrys Morales broke for second and Jesus Sucre’s throw got there many seconds before his slide. A strike him out-throw him out double play is the perfect rally killer.

The Rays did push through a run in the top of the second. Kiermaier opened with single to right center. Gomez laid down a bunt which was good for those who like bunts, moving Kiermaier to second. While he was called out, a replay showed him to be safe and the Rays had two on. Jesus Sucre put down an almost identical bunt but he was unable to beat it out. He did succeed in moving two men into scoring position. Mallex Smith’s ground ball went right to the first baseman for a force out, but Kiermaier, running on contact, was able to score. With Jays first baseman Justin Smoak firing home hoping to get Kiermaier, poor Mallex had to dive face first on the basepath to avoid getting a ball in the face.

In the ensuing middle innings, the Rays and Jays exchanged zeros. The Toronto pitcher, Borucki, despite his poor numbers and Anderson’s scorn, was quite effective. He struck out five Rays, and hitters simply could not make good contact off of him. He ultimately gave up just three hits, two of which never left the infield, and generated a ton of weak ground balls.

He opened the seventh by hitting Kiermaier with a pitch, at which point he was pulled for a reliever. And how fortunate that was for the Rays! His replacement, righty Jake Petricka, got to face pinch hitter Ji-Man Choi, who continued his hot hitting, lacing one into center; Pillar dove for it but missed. Brandon Lowe (who was standing on first after forcing Kiermaier at second) motored around the bases to score. 2-0. Tommy Pham hit one deep to center, which was bobbled slightly by left fielder Teoscar Hernandez for a triple, scoring Choi. 3-0. Run number four came courtesy of a Matt Duffy RBI single.

The Rays bullpen day included Stanek; Hunter Wood (credited with the win); Jalen Beeks; Jose Alvarado; Diego Castillo, Adam Kolarek and Sergio Romo.

Only Kolerak, pitching in the ninth, faltered a bit, but that’s OK because it meant seeing Sergio Romo, who had been MIA for a while (last appearance: August 25).

In the “life is unfair” department, imagine being the hitters facing Castillo tonight:

Rays are apparently on their best run under Kevin Cash, and are now 12 games over .500 (but still depressingly far from a wild card spot, sorry).

And by the way, if you are tired of predictable, cliche-ridden player interviews, check out Tommy Pham’s post game interview with Michelle Margaux. She took note of his hot hitting and in particular his ten game hitting streak, and asked him how he was feeling, no doubt expecting the usual “I’m feeling great.” But no. His response, basically: “everything hurts.” His finger still hurts, his toe still hurts, but he’s playing anyway (it was announced after the game that he had injured his groin as well and would be sitting out tomorrow).

He then went on to reprimand her for mentioning the hitting streak at all because talking about it would jinx him. This could have been light-hearted and joking but his face suggested otherwise; either he was dead serious or he has an A+ dry sense of humor. If he fails to get a hit in his next game, I hope Michelle has the sense to give him a wide berth.

TBD, collectively, pitched nine innings, giving up 3 hits (one double and two singles), two walks, and striking out ten.

The Rays finish the series against Toronto on Wednesday and get to rest on Thursday.