One pitch; one swing; one win.
With lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu getting the start for Toronto on Saturday, Kevin Kiermaier started the evening on the bench, but as any Rays player in 2020 knows, that certainly doesn’t mean you have the full day off.
As the game stretched into extras for the second straight night, KK still hadn’t left the bench, but when his number was called with one out and runners on first and third in the bottom of the tenth, Kiermaier was fresh as a daisy, connecting on the very first pitch he saw, drilling a liner the opposite way to deliver a walk-off win to the Rays, bringing them back up to eight games over .500 (18-10). They now hold a one-game lead over the New York Yankees who were postponed again on Saturday.
With the news that broke Saturday morning that every single Rays pitcher who has ever thrown a pitch in Rays history was currently on the IL (only slight hyperbole), the Rays turned to Aaron Slegers, a name that may have sent a cold shiver down the spine of many before the game actually started.
But with a big ole Stephen A. Smith howevah, Slegers showed us all, looking downright dominant in his start, going four innings AND NOT ALLOWING A SINGLE HIT. A small part of me reallllly wanted to frame this whole recap as a hot take pretending to be upset that Cash pulled Slegs from his no-hitter (you toss four sparkling frames, you get a great nickname like that, kids).
Unfortunately, Ryu was just as tough on Saturday at the Trop, as he continued to flummox Rays hitters this season. As such, it was the Jays who got on the board first when Sean Gilmartin came in for Slegers and looked incredibly shaky in his lone full inning of work. The inning started with a walk to Vlad Junior, and despite a nasty strikeout of Reese McGuire with one out and the bases loaded, a walk to Cavan Biggio directly after broke the seal on the scoreboard in the least surprising outcome of the day.
The Rays had a nice, quick response however, with Adames and Wendle collecting back-to-back hits to start the bottom half of the fifth. Wendle did a particularly good job on the hit and run, and Manuel Margot hustled his way to an RBI fielder’s choice one batter later.
The sixth had runs for Toronto written all over it. The frame started with a pair of singles, and two batters later saw a passed ball with a man on third, BUT between those scares, a bullet throw from Adames to turn two on the lead-footed Guerrero Jr. cut out one runner, and Zunino’s quick recovery on the wild pitch allowed Thompson and the Rays to get out of the inning still tied 1-1.
Each team had baserunners and threats after that (including Biggio almost scoring from second on a wild pitch), but no runs were pushed across through the ninth, ensuring a fourth extra-inning game between the Rays and Jays this season.
In the top of the tenth, Anthony Banda walked the leadoff batter but managed to induce the second 3-6 double play in as many innings, keeping the Jays off the board and setting up the potential for walk-off magic.
And the Rays came through.
After a productive out from Yoshi Tsutsugo to move Margot to third, Ji-Man Choi was intentionally walked and the Jays brought the infield in to face Kiermaier. The face of the Rays showed why on the very first pitch from Anthony Bass: lacing a single to left field, bringing home Margot, and ensuring himself a Gatorade bath in the process.
The Rays and Jays play the penultimate game in their season series on Sunday, with Josh Fleming making his MLB debut for the Rays at 1:10 EST.