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Rays 3, Blue Jays 1: Taylor-made debut for Walls

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Tampa Bay Rays extend winning streak to nine games as Taylor Walls hits two doubles in his major league debut

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays continue their local road trip to Dunedin to play the Toronto Blue Jays for the second game of this four-game series. Shane McClanahan (1-0, 4.67 ERA) has the start for the Rays against Robbie Ray (2-1, 3.79 ERA) for the Blue Jays.

It is the first full-day since the Rays traded Willy Adames to the Milwaukee Brewers and the Rays added one of the players received in exchange, pitcher J.P. Feyereisen, to the active roster as well as recalling Taylor Walls who will be making his major league debut. If the two of them can get off to a productive start it can help ease the pain of any fans missing one of their favorite players.

The Rays batters opened up with two hard-hit balls starting with a Randy Arozarena lineout (95.8 EV) and a Yandy Diaz groundout (107.4 EV). Both batters had an xBA of .370 and resulted in two outs. Brandon Lowe would also groundout to close the top-half of the first. Ray only needed 11 pitches including eight fastballs to retire the top of the Rays lineup in order in the first inning.

Shane McClanahan was off to a good start in the bottom of the first getting Marcus Semien to strike out swinging. After a Bo Bichette groundout it was a quick two outs on the board. It was clear McClanahan wanted to give Vladimir Guerrero Jr. nothing good to hit and walked him on five pitches. Teoscar Hernandez crushed an RBI-double (103.2 EV, 19 LA) to score Guerrero Jr. and make it a 1-0 lead for the Blue Jays. Randal Grichuk would ground out to shortstop giving Taylor Walls his first defensive involvement in the majors.

Ray put plenty of pitches over the plate in the second inning and the Rays hitters were not able to capitalize on most of them. The half-inning started with a Margot out to left field and a Brosseau ground out to second. Then Ji-Man Choi came to the plate and extended his hitting streak to eight games including a hit in every game he has played in this year with line drive double to left. A Zunino pop out in foul territory would leave Choi stranded at second.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. returned to the Blue Jays lineup after dealing with a knee injury the last couple days. He demonstrated some good plate discipline taking the first two McClanahan fastballs outside the zone for a 2-0 count then hitting a line drive to left for a single. Santiago Espinal flies into a double play that Gurriel Jr. must have thought was beyond Margot’s range. After a Danny Jansen flyball to Margot the Blue Jays hold their 1-0 lead after two innings.

The top of the third was all about Randy Arozarena. After getting on base with two outs thanks to a Semien fielding error, he stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error from catcher Danny Jansen. All that effort would be for not as Diaz lined out to second.

The Blue Jays would get a single from Jonathan Williams in the third and Randal Grichuk in the fourth to hold their one-run lead heading into the fifth inning. McClanahan finished with 5.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, and 4 SO on 67 pitches.

Mike Zunino’s power has been impressive to see sustained this season and in the top of the fifth he hit his 11th home run of the season (105.1 EV, 25 LA) on a Ray changeup to tie the game. In the next at-bat Taylor Walls got his first hit in the majors with a double to right. Brett Phillips entered the game to pinch-hit for Kevin Kiermaier that we would later learn left the game with left eye irritation. Phillips would ground out and Arozarena would strike out to end the inning and put a hold on Walls’ first career run, for now.

J.P. Feyereisen made his Rays debut in the sixth inning in relief for McClanahan and put together a good performance facing the minimum that included Bichette, Guerrero Jr., and Hernandez. He allowed a walk to Guerrero Jr. but a double play from Hernandez ended the inning.

In the top of the seventh Zunino keeps the power hitting going with a double to center in his third at-bat against Ray. Trying to capitalize on some offense from catchers, Francisco Mejia pinch hits for Brett Phillips. Mejia would lineout to end the half-inning. The Rays made four defensive adjustments and a defensive replacement that brought Joey Wendle into the game playing third heading into the bottom-half of the inning with the game still tied 1-1.

Ray would finish his night for the Blue Jays with 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R and 7 SO on 109 pitches.

Andrew Kittredge came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh inning. The only baserunner he allowed was Espinal that took a first-pitch sinker for a line drive double. He got the first and third out of the inning on swinging strikes to Grichuck and Jansen respectively.

Arozarena led off with a hit off Anthony Castro in to replace Ray in the top of the eighth. He moved over to second on a Diaz groundout. Then aware and prepared as always, reaches third on pitch in the dirt. Manuel Margot would single to left for the go-ahead RBI single, scoring Arozarena. Rays lead 2-1.

Pete Fairbanks took the mound for the Rays in the bottom of the eighth. He started strong striking out Rowdy Tellez who was in to pinch hit for Davis. His only two baserunners would come from a Semien walk and Guerrero Jr. reaching on a fielder’s choice. He would close out the eighth with a strikeout to Hernandez. We’re on to the ninth with the Rays leading 2-1.

Taylor Walls really wanted to make his debut memorable. After hitting a double earlier in the game batting right-handed, he gets his second double of the game batting left-handed against Trent Thornton. Both doubles came off fastballs in the bottom of the zone and it was a great first-impression for Walls to generate some results from both sides of the plate. Walls would get his first career run off a wild pitch from Thornton and Jansen’s second throwing error of the game. Rays lead 3-1.

Diego Castillo replaced Fairbanks trying to earn the save in the bottom of the ninth. The only obstacle was a one-out single to Gurriel Jr. that brought the tying runner to the plate twice. First, he got Espinal to strikeout swinging in a three-pitch at-bat. He sealed the victory getting Reese McGuire, pinch-hitting for Jansen, to flyout to center.

This Rays team has now extended their win streak to nine games. They are two wins away from potentially completing their fourth sweep of the month. This team is on an offensive run that certainly will cool off at some point but it is certainly fun to watch while it lasts.