I’m back for my second straight Saturday recap for a game between the Rays and Jays, and the mood around this ballclub has changed greatly since then. For starters, the Rays have won every game since last Saturday’s loss, have called up prospect Vidal Brujan, and Mike Zunino and Joey Wendle were named to their first All-Star team. Ryan Yarbrough (91.1 IP, 4.34 ERA, 4.21 xFIP) toed the rubber for his fourth outing against the Blue Jays this season and was opposed by Ross Stripling. Last week against the Rays, Stripling went 5.2 innings, giving up just one run in a Blue Jays victory.
Yarbrough hasn’t issued more than two walks in any given outing this season, but in the first inning of today’s game, he walked both Marcus Semien and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The Blue Jays worked Yarbrough to 27 pitches by the end of the first, but could not get any runs out of it after Mike Zunino picked off Guerrero Jr. at first to end the inning.
On the flip side of the first, leadoff batter Brandon Lowe wasted no time getting the Rays on the board, blasting Ross Stripling’s first pitch, 90 mph fastball into the right field seats, traveling 410 feet with a 108 mph exit velocity (Spoiler alert: he did it again in the third inning). Brandon Lowe has hit six home runs in his last eight games, and now leads the team with 20 long balls this season, despite his main competitor Mike Zunino hitting one as well this afternoon.
In the second inning, Yarbrough bounced back with a relatively quick 1-2-3, but the Blue Jays took the lead in the third after a Santiago Espinal double, and a two-run home run from second baseman Marcus Semien. That was all the scoring Toronto could manage against the Rays’ lefty, who worked five innings, striking out four batters.
Old friend alert! In the bottom of the fifth inning, with two runners on and one out, Charlie Montoyo brought in RHP Trevor Richards, who also spent time in Milwaukee this season after being traded alongside Willy Adames there in May. A wild pitch from Richards allowed for both of those runners to be in scoring position, but he was able to strike out Randy Arozarena and then get Ji-Man Choi to fly out to end the inning. He’d also go on to strike out the side in order in the sixth, putting together another great outing in what’s been the best season in his career to this point.
When the Blue Jays threatened in the seventh inning with a two-out ground rule double from pinch-hitter Reese McGuire, Kevin Cash lifted Matt Wisler and went to Pete Fairbanks, who shut the door with a strikeout against Marcus Semien. Fairbanks came back out for the eighth, retiring the side in order, including two strikeouts against All-Stars Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
An insurance run came in the bottom of the eighth after back-to-back singles from Austin Meadows and Randy Arozarena. Meadows stole second base, and when Arozarena’s single skipped past CF Randal Grichuk, he was able to extend the Rays lead to three.
The Blue Jays didn’t go down quietly in the ninth. Randal Grichuk reached on a Taylor Walls’ error, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. walked to bring the tying run to the plate. Castillo was able to hone his command and got Reese McGuire to fly out to center field to end the game. The save was Castillo’s 13th of the season.
So far this weekend, Rays relievers have held the Blue Jays scoreless over nine innings of work, playing a huge role in the series victory. Tomorrow afternoon will be the last game before the All-Star break, with Rich Hill pitching with a chance to sweep. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 pm.