Like a meal that has all the food groups, this was a game that had...well, all the baseball stuff. No-hitter watch (sort of), catch of the year, smashed no doubt home run and Little League home run. All this drama and a win, too, as the Rays notched an 8-3 victory to start this home stand.
In the early innings, the Rays threatened....and threatened....but didn’t get many runs across. Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez was behind in most counts, didn’t seem to have much command, and the Rays got a bunch of hits plus a few walks. But despite many runners in scoring position, the Rays scored just 1 run in the first three innings. Travis d’Arnaud singled and moved to second on a ground out, scoring when Austin Meadows singled through the middle. When Meadows went on the IL I thought that would be the end of his scorching hot start, but apparently not! Meadows stole second, and Tommy Pham drew a walk, but they would be stranded. Sanchez was clearly struggling, having thrown 50 pitches in two innings, but for all that the Rays had just a single run to show for it. 1-0.
The Rays put up more runs in the fourth, a three run inning that showed that it’s more important to be lucky than good.
Sanchez had left the game, later reported to have torn his finger nail (ouch). Jacob Waguespack, a recent call up from Triple A, replaced him. He got two strikes on d’Arnaud who then drove a fastball for a double. After young Waguespack got two outs and got two strikes on Tommy, Pham grounded it up the middle, scoring d’Arnaud; Pham aggressively took second on the throw. Then Choi went the other way for a single that scored Pham. Choi also aggressively went to second on the throw; Toronto catcher Luke Maile threw to second to get him but his throw went into a no man’s land in right field, allowing Choi to come around to score the fourth run of the day. Ji-Man Choi with the first Little League HR of the Rays 2019! Rays up 4-0
Meanwhile, Yonny Chirinos was having a pretty nice afternoon. He got a little help from his friends; this catch by Kevin Kiermaier is certainly one for his career highlight reel:
At the end of five, Chirinos had walked two but had given up — how many hits? That would be zero. No hits.
And at 69 pitches, his day was done.
I could probably end this recap now and just let you all use the comments to share your thoughts on this move. Should Cash have kept Yonny in until he had given up a hit? Let him at least pitch another inning, given how he was cruising? Let’s keep in mind that a few appearances ago Chirinos had been very effective....until he wasn’t, and before Cash could get anyone else warmed up Yonny had, if I recall, given up a lead. So there’s some evidence suggesting that getting him out before, rather than after, he loses his stuff makes sense.
Even with that memory, and hearing that Chirinos’ recent appearances had all ended before he hit 70 pitches, it was still painful to see him get such a quick hook. I know he wasn’t going to pitch a complete game, but I thought pushing him for another inning was a reasonable thing to do.
To start the sixth, the Rays brought in Oliver Drake, who of course promptly gave up a single to Luke Maile, as though he were trying to play the role of Crushing Disappointment (some fans booed at that point, although they were really booing Cash’s decision more than Drake’s performance). He then walked Vladdy Jr. He did manage to record two strike outs, though, and was replaced with two on and two out by Chaz Roe. Roe went to a full count on Randal Grichuk and got him swinging on a very Roe-sian slider. Crisis averted. Hunter Wood pitched the seventh and he was less fortunate — he gave a walk and then a home run to Jonathan Davis, making the score 4-2.
The eighth inning belonged to Jose Alvarado, the guy who throws 100 mph filth but of late has tended to lose the strike zone and have some messy innings. Today seemed to be, at first, trending in that direction. He walked the leadoff batter; Vladdy Jr, representing the tying run, hit the ball hard but Kiermaier was there to catch it. Rowdy Tellez then grounded into a double play mercifully, to end the inning.
The Rays put the game away in the bottom of the eighth, once more playing on Blue Jay misplays and lucky bounces.
Facing former Rays prospect Zac Rosscup, KK reached on an infield single, and Travis d’Arnaud, who seems to like playing the Blue Jays, hit a hard grounder that got deflected into the outfield, allowing Kiermaier to reach third while d’Arnaud made it to second for another double – yet more proof that lucky > good. Rosscup departed and was replaced by Sam Gaviglio, who promptly helped Daniel Robertson in his ongoing offensive struggles by giving him a perfect flat slider that he hit for two run double. The next batter was Austin Meadows, who seemed to be saying “those two singles were OK but I’m here to hit dingers” and that he did, quite a no-doubter, to make the score 8-2.
The Blue Jays weren’t quite done yet. Facing Adam Kolarek in the ninth, Freddy Galvis hit a solo home run to make the score 8-3, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. followed with a long double. But it was too little, too late as Kolarek rallied to retire the side without further drama.
Some concluding thoughts:
This is a tough week for Rays fans who want to see two great organizational assets succeed; teams managed by Charlie Montoyo and Rocco Baldelli are coming to Tropicana Field, and I need to reconcile my desire to see the Rays win every friggin game with my well wishes for these two guys. The Rays welcomed Montoyo back with this video:
The Yankees, who are apparently too cheap to sign real starters, once again used an opener and a bulk guy in today’s game. Sadly, it worked and they won. Surely there is a heap of regression coming for them, right?