Today’s game was a great pitcher’s duel, which may not be evident from the final score. Both Kevin Gausman and Drew Rasmussen were on their game — both avoiding walks and deep counts, with Gausman depending more on whiffs and strikeouts and Rasmussen managing to get a lot of playable ground balls.
In some ways the difference maker was defense. The Rays was really sharp and the Blue Jays much less so, even though the box score will show that each team had one error.
In the first inning the teams exchanged zeros, for the Rays helped by strong defense.
Remember when folks were saying Wander would need to be moved off of shortstop?
The Rays first hit came in the second. Brandon Lowe hit a ball deep toward center, and George Springer’s attempt at a leaping catch was unsuccessful (and led to Springer hitting the wall painfully — he would leave the game with an ankle sprain after the inning) As it happens the Blue Jays had deployed a four man outfield against our slugging Brandon but I guess they had better try five men next time. Ji-Man Choi hit a weak grounder into the drawn in infield but Lowe was still able to slide in under the tag at home for the first Rays run.
In the Rays third, big news: Gausman walked Margot on four pitches! This is noteworthy because it was only Gausman’s second walk of the season. But their next good scoring chance came in the fifth. Kiermaier hit a high chopper to the pitcher, who overthrew to first. KK did what he does best, which is turn on the burners and end up at third. Mike Zunino, who had looked silly striking out earlier, this time hit it very deep to left — so deep in fact that pretty much everyone, including Zunino, assumed that Gausman had been tagged with his first home run of the season. But the ball hit just below the yellow line on the back wall, good for one run but not two.
Rasmussen meanwhile was absolutely cruising through 5.2 innings, with great control and a lot of ground balls. It seemed like he’d make it easily through the sixth but damn you baseball. Tapia hit yet another seemingly harmless grounder but it managed to head into a spot just between Franco and Lowe where neither had a great play on the speedy runner, so the Jays had their second hit of the night. Then after scarcely going three balls on any hitter, Rasmussen walked Bichette. That brought up Guerrero and of course he singled, knocking in a run. That ended Rasmussen’s night as Ryan Thompson came in to try to get that last out. Ras ended up giving up one run and three hits. He only struck out 1, but that’s sort of his way — with eleven ground balls outs who needs K’s?
Rays had some more defensive gems to get through the seventh with no more Toronto base runners, including this catch:
In the eighth inning Brooks Raley was the new pitcher, and although he’s been very good this season he wasn’t very good tonight. A series of singles tied the game. Fortunately, after a pitching change, Guerrero hit into a double play to end what could have been a big inning.
To start the Rays eighth, Mike Zunino hit another ball, this time to right field, that bounced off the wall and just missed going out. Mikey, maybe add some spinach to your pre-game meal? We could have used an extra foot on each of his hits today.
But this time he did make it home (or that is Vidal Brujan, pinch running for him made it home) on a couple of ground balls that Bo Bichette just couldn’t turn into outs, and the go-ahead run of course was knocked in by Manuel Margot. Rays up 3-2.
Wander Franco hit into a double play for the first two outs of the innings, moving Walls to third. And when Francisco Mejia, pinch hitting for Brett Phillips, quickly got to two strikes it looked that this rally would end with a single run scored. But Mejia, whose hitting I’ve really come to admire, wrestled a tough high pitch into shallow right for a run-scoring single. He was then balked to second and scored when yet another subpar Toronto outfield play turned another Lowe deep fly into another triple.
Not often that Brandon Lowe has a two-triple night.
Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza could be seen shaking his head in disbelief after the Mejia RBI single, and again as he trudged off the field after the Lowe triple. We feel you, Tim.
Jason Adam had the ninth inning and retired all three batters for the save.
This was a nice team win that took advantage of some less than stellar Toronto defense. Kudos to “Manny Mar-go-ahead” and Frankie Mejia for coming through when needed, and to Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino for showing a bit of power against a pitcher who has not let many batters cut loose.