The 21st of September had the potential to be a night to remember for this Tampa Bay Rays team. Coming into the night with a magic number of two for the postseason it was possible there could have been a postseason celebration if a few scenarios played out. All of them required the Rays to win, which they fell short in a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays putting the celebration on hold for now.
The strike zone was also as wide as the Rays lead in the division tonight. It benefited both teams but made it frustrating to watch at times.
In the first inning the Blue Jays hitters were no match for Drew Rasmussen. Rasmussen retired the side in order by striking out George Springer and Marcus Semien before getting Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to groundout.
The bottom of the first was more exciting than usual following the report that the Blue Jays were not happy with Kevin Kiermaier taking their pitching game plan card in the sixth inning of Monday night’s game. Everyone was watching to see whether or not the Rays can play their card right as well as if an unwritten rule could result in Kiermaier taking a pitch to the body, though, there would be no retribution in this game.
The Blue Jays are not happy.— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) September 21, 2021
Last night in the 6th, Kevin Kiermaier slid into home plate and grabbed a card (video here). That card, I'm told, was from Alejandro Kirk's wrist band that fell out on the tag.
On the card: the Blue Jays' game plan on pitching to Rays' hitters. pic.twitter.com/wjjuYd3Bhk
The Rays had two base runners quickly with Brandon Lowe hitting a single and Ji-Man Choi drawing a walk. The next three batters all retired in order without bringing any runners home, part of a night where the Rays would leave 12 baserunners stranded overall.
In the second inning the Rays had five runners on three walks and two singles but only managed to add a single run. After Manuel Margot was walked, Kiermaier grounded into a double play. Mike Zunino put some more hope into the atmosphere with a single followed by a walk to Brett Phillips and with two outs things looked and felt positive for the Rays. Brandon Lowe hit the RBI-single that scored Zunino to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. A Ji-Man Choi loaded the bases only for Yandy Diaz to strikeout and strand the baserunners.
In the third inning the Blue Jays offense started clicking. Lourdes Gurriel and Corey Dickerson hit back-to-back singles giving the Blue Jays runners on first and third with no outs. A Breyvic Valera groundout would allow Gurriel to score and tie the game 1-1.
After a scoreless fourth inning, both teams added a run in the fifth. Gurriel hit a solo homer in the top of the inning to give the Blue Jays a temporary lead that was erased on a Joey Wendle RBI-single in the bottom of the inning.
Rasmussen put together five solid innings before getting lifted for Nick Anderson in the sixth. Only giving up four hits and two runs to this Blue Jays lineup that can make a scoreboard look like a football game quickly is nothing to be ashamed of. The offense has to do their part to score more runs.
In the top of the sixth Anderson was not as effective for the Rays. A walk to Semien and single to Guerrero Jr. put runners on second and third base with no outs. This set the stage for a Sac Fly from Bo Bichette scoring Semien to give the Blue Jays the lead again. As soon as there was a glimpse of hope for the Rays it felt like things got away from them just as quickly. Joey Wendle made a huge play on a Teoscar Hernandez line drive to keep the Blue Jays to a single run in the inning.
Alek Manoah pitched six innings and after giving up five hits and walking six only allowed two earned runs. Usually the Blue Jays offense gets all the discussion but the defense really came through in this game.
Michael Wacha was originally the probable starter for Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays but that plan changed when he entered the game in the seventh inning out of the bullpen and he looked really good in the first few batters faced. He retired the side in order in the seventh including two strikeouts and he hit 98mph in the process.
In the eighth inning we saw more of the Wacha we’ve come to know. He gave up three singles that started with a leadoff single to Springer that eventually turned into a run and a 4-3 lead for the Blue Jays after eight innings.
One thing about the 2021 Tampa Bay Rays is it never feels like they are out of a game because they so rarely have been. The late-inning runs always gives hope that a comeback is just a few at-bats away.
In the bottom of the ninth Jordan Romano was on his way to putting the game away after striking out Brett Phillips and Brandon Lowe. Then he walked Ji-Man Choi and Yandy Diaz bringing Randy Arozarena to the plate as the potential go-ahead run. The Rays brought in Taylor Walls to pinch run for Choi and then Arozarena becamse the third consecutive batter walked to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth for Joey Wendle.
Wendle could have been the hero but he hit a first-pitch slider just foul on the first base line that would have at a minimum tied the game at four. In the next pitch he hit a flyball to the outfield that would end the game.
On to tomorrow.