Pretend you hadn’t seen the score of today’s game. If I were to tell you that the Rays starter only went four innings, that the team hit no home runs and struck out sixteen times, wouldn’t you have assumed they must have lost?
Instead, they scored seven. Five walks and two hit batters helped them parlay their eight hits into several crooked number innings. And thanks to some steady bullpen performances they held their opponents to a single run.
The top of the first nearly turned disastrous quickly — the Jays got two quick (if hard) outs. Then Guerrero singled. George Springer walked after a lengthy at bat, and Hernandez got on with a squib of an infield single. Suddenly bases were loaded and McClanahan’s pitch count was climbing. But a quick grounder to the slick fielding Taylor Walls ended the inning.
The Jays did, however, get on the board in the third, thanks to a double and an RBI single. The Rays answered that in the bottom of the inning. Mike Zunino was hit by a pitch, and Brett Phillips got the Rays’ first hit off of Alek Manoah, who had stymied them just a week earlier, a ground rule double that put runners on second and third. After Choi walked to load the bases, Austin Meadows delivered a perfectly placed bloop single just beyond the shift, scoring two runs.
As is so often the case, lucky hits are the best hits.
The Rays had the lead to start the fourth, but McClanahan was at 72 pitches, thanks to some very extended Blue Jays at bats. Good thing Rays had that well rested bullpen! He got through the fourth with no further damage, but that would be his last inning.
The Rays had a chance to add to the lead in the fourth inning. Taylor Walls doubled, and Zunino’s hard grounder got by Cavin Biggio for a single. Rays had runners on the corners with one out, and wouldn’t this be a great time for Brett Phillips to hit a nice fly ball to the track that would score a run? Phillips struck out, but Lowe walked to load the bases and then Ji-Man Choi took a pitch right to the knee cap to force in the Rays third run. A painful way to grow the lead to 3-1.
By the fifth inning both starting pitchers were out, which worked out a lot better for the Rays than for the Blue Jays.
The Rays brought in Andrew Kittredge and Jeffrey Springs, each pitching two perfect innings. JP Feyereisen got the ninth, giving up a lonely single before ending the game.
Blue Jays relievers were not as sharp. Anthony Castro gave up singles to Zunino and Phillips in the sixth inning. Brandon Lowe hit a line drive to left fielder, where Teoscar Hernandez caught it awkwardly. That allowed quick thinking Rays base runners to tag up and move to second and third, where they were both driven in by Ji-Man Choi’s single. Rays 5, Blue Jays 1.
The scoring continued in the seventh inning, thanks to two walks and a two-RBI double off the bat of Taylor Walls.
Some closing thoughts:
- Are the Rays good again?
- The Rays strike out a lot, and they did today as well. Even Wander Franco, known throughout his minor league career as the guy who never strikes out, is striking out (four times tonight in one of his most frustrating major league performances). Is it contagious? When the Rays lose I think “they strike out too much!” and when they win I think “an out is an out”.
- When the Rays were losing, the defensive miscues were perhaps the most difficult thing to see. When they are playing their game, it’s fun to watch a defense that makes the routine plays plus many of the difficult plays. Having seen what could have been a dangerous collision between Franco and Walls as both went for a grounder on Wednesday, it’s fun to see them work collaboratively covering the left side of the infield.
- No help from the Phillies tonight so the Rays remain 2.5 games out of first.
UPDATE: Congrats to Joey Wendle!