Let’s get the good news out of the way first:
- The Rays beat the Blue Jays.
- Nobody got hurt.
Look, during the course of a 162 games, some games will be annoying, slow paced yawners. But if you’re gonna have to play those games anyway, you might as well win them. Right? And when doing so runs your record to division leading 12-4 record, wraps up a 7-2 road trip, and runs your team record of series wins to start a season up to five? Well, all the better.
It surely didn’t help that the always deliberate Marcus “Sloth” Stroman was pitching for the Jays, and he was painfully slow today. Had this been football, the delay of game penalties would have put him pitching from the deep centerfield by the end of the first. The pitch clock cannot get here soon enough as far as I’m concerned.
To their credit, the Rays did not play “Sleepy” Stroman’s game and worked patient at bats. Though they only managed a one-out walk to Yandy Diaz in the first, their patience paid off more and more as the game went along.
In the bottom of the first, Billy McKinney led off for the Jays, slicing a 3-2 fastball toward the gap in left center. Though a hustling Kiermaier cut it off, his leaping throw was a little wide of second, allowing McKinney to slide in safely with a double. A single to right by Freddy Galvis put the Jays up 1-0. The rally was short-lived, however. Though Smoak followed by reaching on a questionable hit by pitch, a 5-4-3 double play and a strikeout got Morton out of the inning without any further damage.
Brandon Lowe led off with a walk in the second, then swiped second an out later, and did so easily. A Kiermaier strikeout later, Willy Adames drove one 396 feet to center. Unfortunately, it’s about 398 out there, and Grichuk ran it down.
Michael Perez broke up the no-hitter with a softly lined single to right leading off the third, but the Rays again looked like they would fail to cash in, thanks in part to a plate that was suddenly wide enough for Yo Mama jokes. But then Choi reached on a bad error by Gurriel and Garcia walked after a ten pitch battle, setting it up for a Brandon Lowe RBI single to right to tie the game. Robertson grounded into a force play to end the threat, but “Tortoise” Stroman was now pushing 70 pitches.
A quick bottom of the frame by Morton put “Snail” Stroman right back out there. Kiermaier dropped a 1-0 bunt toward third which Stroman pounced on quickly but airmailed into the first base stands, putting KK at second. Drury then failed to field a swinging bunt by Adames and the Rays had runners on the corners. A Perez walk followed to load the bases with no outs for the top of the order. The formerly red hot Meadows could only chop weakly to first, but it was more than enough to score Kiermaier and give the Rays the lead.
Next was Yandy Diaz, who grounded weakly to short that easily scored Adames, making it a 3-1 Rays lead.
A strikeout to Choi ended the rally.
The Jays got a rally going in the bottom of the fourth with a walk and a single, but Morton apparently worked out of it while I was cursing Sling TV. (Editor’s Note: It was two strikeouts, a walk, and pop out to Drury.)
Thomas Pannone came on for “Molasses” Stroman in the top of the fifth, and he was (mercifully for viewers) throwing strikes and working relatively quickly. It was not so merciful to the Rays however, as he struck out the side in an immaculate inning. Though I gotta say, I don’t think it should count as an immaculate inning if somebody fouls one off. But who am I to argue with the church of baseball.
McKinney tried to get a rally going for the Jays in the bottom of the fifth with a one-out bloop double to left. After Galvis flyout and a Smoak walk, Morton got the grounder he needed to get out fo the jam. Unfortunately third baseman Daniel Robertson booted it to load the bases and end Morton’s day one out short of qualifying for the win. Adam Kolarek came on, and Toronto countered by pinch hitting Teoscar Hernandez. Kolarek locked him up on a 92 mph quick pitch that led to some carping with home plate umpire Ramon DeJesus by Hernandez.
After Kolarek and Roe divvied up the sixth, Stanek took over for the seventh and proceeded to give up a bomb to center by Freddy Galvis. 3-2 Rays. Smoak then smoked one over the head of short right fielder Willy Adames for a single, and prompting Cash to go to his A-bullpen. The big righty Diego Castillo induced a 6-4-3 double play from Grichuk,
In the eighth, the Rays put up a five-spot, putting this game out of its misery. Garcia doubled to start the rally, then moved up to third on an aggressive tag up off a Lowe flyout to left. A walk to Robertson later, Kevin Kiermaier drilled a hanging slider off the centerfield wall for a double, and the Rays had a two run lead again.
The Rays tried a safety squeeze from Adames, but Robertson pulled up, nearly resulting in the Rays having two runners on third base. In the end, it was just 1-3 putout of Adames.
But pinch hitting Zunino picked up his bandmates with a single, scoring DRob and KK. 6-2 Rays. A second pinch hitter followed in Heredia, who hit an absolute laser down the left field line for a two-run dinger.
Hunter Wood and Wilmer Font worked the last two innings to finish off the Blue Jays, though Font did give up a two run jack to McKinney for the final margin.
- Tommy Pham got the day off, giving Avisail Garcia a start in the field. Pham’s on-base streak will have to wait another day.
- Morton and Perez had a cross-up in first, which was at least the third cross-up with Morton pitching this season. The cross ups this season have involved both catchers. This is something that needs to get worked out before somebody gets hurt.
- Today’s win combined with Yankee and Oriole losses means that the Rays head into Tax Day with a 5.5 game lead over the second place New York and a six game lead over Baltimore and Boston. Who knew that scoreboard watching in April could be so much fun?