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Rays 9, Blue Jays 10: The bullpen had a six-run lead to work with but blew it instead

After the Rays scored eight runs through three innings, the bullpen made blowing a six-run lead look incredibly easy!

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

With the first game of this series in the books as a Rays win, the Rays looked to grab the series win in a late afternoon matchup against the Blue Jays.

Andrew Kittredge opened this game for the Rays, the first time he has done so this season. Ryan Borucki was the starting pitcher for the Blue Jays, a pitcher whose number the Rays have had throughout his career.

The Rays started this game with a first inning threat to score after Tommy Pham hit a one-out single, Austin Meadows walked and Travis d’Arnaud singled, but Avisail Garcia grounded into a double play to strand the bases loaded.

Andrew Kittredge started out the bottom of the first inning very strong, striking out Eric Sogard and Freddy Galvis before allowing a very weakly hit infield single to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Gurriel hit the ball 56 mph off of the bat with a launch angle of negative 57 degrees. Gurriel scored from first when Randal Grichuk hit a double all the way to the left-center field wall, giving the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead. Kittredge struck out Vlad Jr. to end the inning.

Mike Brosseau led off the top of the second with a double, and Guillermo Heredia followed that up with a single, moving Brosseau up to third. Willy Adames stepped up to the plate after Mike Zunino struck out. With a 2-1 count, Adames saw a 91 mph fastball right down the middle and blasted it over the left field wall, giving the Rays a 3-1 lead on one swing.

The leg kick says it all with this swing. With an exit velocity of 105.6 mph, Adames absolutely crushed the ball, and the 23 degree launch angle was enough to send the ball exactly 400 feet.

Borucki struck out Matt Duffy for the second out in the inning but walked Tommy Pham. Austin Meadows hit a line drive single up the middle, bringing Travis d’Arnaud up to the plate. d’Arnaud took a strike before Borucki hung a changeup right down the middle, and d’Arnaud got every bit of the changeup, shooting it over the left-center field wall and extending the Rays’ lead to 6-1.

d’Arnaud’s home run left his bat at 105.3 mph, going 417 feet thanks to a launch angle of 23 degrees. In the bottom half of the second, Andrew Kittredge allowed a solo home run to Cavan Biggio, son of Craig Biggio, before locking it down and striking out the next three Blue Jays in order.

Sam Gaviglio entered the game in the top of the third to relieve Borucki, who did not give the Blue Jays the start they were looking for. Guillermo Heredia welcomed Gaviglio into the game with a leadoff single. Willy Adames hit a single of his own after Avisail Garcia flew out, and Matt Duffy drove Heredia home with a single to right field, extending the lead to 7-2.

Duffy’s RBI single moved Adames up to third, and Tommy Pham plated home Adames with an infield single to put this game even farther out of reach for Toronto, 8-2 Rays. Austin Meadows moved Duffy to third when Vlad Guerrero Jr. misplayed what would’ve been the third out in the inning, although Meadows was credited with a single. Travis d’Arnaud flew out for the third out.

After three innings of offense, the Rays had already scored eight runs on 12 hits before the opener even left the game. Because of his multi-inning flexibility, Kittredge stayed in the game to pitch in the bottom half of the third, but allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning. Two on, no outs, no problem, as Kittredge got three outs without allowing a run to score.

Jalen Beeks entered the game in the bottom of the fourth to work the bulk of the innings. Avisail Garcia left the game with an illness and was replaced in right field by Mike Brosseau, with Joey Wendle entering the game to replace Brosseau at second base.

In the top of the sixth, things got weird. Former Rays pitcher Wilmer Font entered the game for Toronto. Font joined the Blue Jays two weeks ago after the Mets DFA’d him, and the first batter he’d face? Former Blue Jays prospect and Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud drew a leadoff walk, winning this matchup between TB-NYM-TOR-linked players.

The Font fun did not end after d’Arnaud’s walk, however, as Joey Wendle hit a double up the third base line to put two runners on and no outs for Mike Brosseau. Brosseau struck out, but Guillermo Heredia took advantage of the situation, hitting a sac fly and scoring d’Arnaud to extend the lead to 9-2. Mike Zunino flew out to end the inning.

The Blue Jays scored a run in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Drury singled home Vlad Jr. who led off the inning with a double. One run would be all that Beeks would allow in his outing today, and he was pulled after the seventh inning for Hunter Wood to work the bottom of the eighth.

Beeks threw four innings, striking out one and walking two while allowing one run on four hits and throwing 73 pitches, 42 for strikes. Hunter Wood struck out the first two batters he faced, but then allowed back-to-back home runs to Brandon Drury and Teoscar Hernandez, shrinking the Rays lead to 9-5. Wood allowed a single before ending the inning on a groundout.

Oliver Drake entered the game in the bottom of the ninth, looking to close this one out without any dramatics. Unfortunately, Drake allowed a leadoff double before walking Randal Grichuk. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stepped up to the plate and made this a one-run ball game with one swing, hammering a ball 390 feet over the left field wall with a three-run homer.

Drake’s day was done after Vlad Jr’s homer, and Kevin Cash brought in Adam Kolarek to face the left-handed Cavan Biggio. Kolarek struck out Biggio, and out came cash again, this time to bring in Colin Poche. Poche threw nothing but fastballs to strike out Danny Jansen, recording the second out. One out to go, all Poche needs to do is not allow a game-tying home run to Brandon Drury.

After Brandon Drury hit his game-tying opposite-field home run, Colin Poche struck out Teoscar Hernandez to end the inning and send this one into extras.

If there’s one thing and one thing at all I scratch my head about, it isn’t using Poche, a fly-ball pitcher, to face Brandon Drury, a ground-ball pull-hitter that is worse against lefties than righties, it’s keeping Poche in to face Hernandez, a fly-ball hitter with good power. Of course, because baseball doesn’t always make sense, Hernandez is the hitter that Poche struck out with no problem.

The other thing I’m left wondering is why not bring Pagan in to face Drury? Pagan hasn’t pitched since Wednesday, and with an off-day on Monday, there is little reason to not bring your best arm in when there’s one out needed in a one-run game.

The Rays offense plated no runs in the top of the 10th, and Poche recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the 10th. Emilio Pagan eventually did enter the game to face Lourdes Gurriel Jr, and thanfully, got him out. The Rays offense went down 1-2-3 in the top of the 11th, and in the bottom half, Pagan escaped a bit of a jam to send this game to the 12th.

Once again in the top of the 12th, the Rays bats were retired 1-2-3, so it was up to the bullpen to keep this game tied and extend the game another inning. Pagan stayed in the game for the bottom of the 12th, but did not stay in for long after Teoscar Hernandez hit a walk-off solo home run to dead center field to win it for the Blue Jays.

The Rays scored eight runs in the first three innings of the game. The Rays were up 9-2 after the first half of the sixth inning. The bullpen had a six-run lead to work with, needing to cover TWO innings, and they couldn't even do that, although maybe they could have if our best reliever was brought in

  1. To start the ninth
  2. To face Vlad Jr
  3. To face Drury

But Emilio Pagan didn’t see any of these situations, instead being brought in to pitch in a tied game in extra innings where he would get no run support. I can live with using Drake to start the inning, but there needs to be a backup plan available in case Drake doesn’t have it, and he didn’t today. There’s still a chance to salvage this series and win it tomorrow afternoon, but a loss like this simply cannot ever happen again.