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Road Runner Randy: Rays 4, Blue Jays 2

MLB: Game One-Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays took game one of today’s day-night double header despite scarcely squaring up a single hit.

Their entire offensive production came in the first three innings. They scored four “small ball” runs with an assist from the Blue Jays defense. Other than a Yandy single (of course), they hit nothing over 100 mph.

In the first inning they strung together two singles and an RBI fielder’s choice. The third inning almost looked like a replay, with Diaz and Franco hitting singles, but then it got more interesting. Jonathan Aranda seemed to have grounded out to the second baseman, whose throw to first base beat Aranda easily. But Aranda noticed that Guerrero had straddled first base but not actually stepped on it, and the replay proved him right. Randy Arozena once more grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice to put the Rays up 2-0. David Peralta hit a nice long liner to left field for out two and run three.

With Margot batting, Arozarena was clearly determined to steal second base. He seemed to have the base stolen not just once but twice, but each time Margot had clipped the catcher with his backswing and Randy was called back.

Margot then hit a hard grounder that split the infielders, just barely bounding into the outfield. Arozena went to third and then....just kept going!

The ball was not deep, and perhaps I was not the only one watching at home and screaming WHAT ARE YOU DOING but the throw home was way high and he scored easily. I did not see what made him feel he could make it home - did Linares wave him in ? But it worked.

Jeffrey Springs had the clean, face paced innings we’ve come to expect from him but stumbled a bit in the fourth, walking two batters (and not the top of the lineup guys you’d want to pitch around either). But the inning ended with one of those infield pop ups that cause the entire infield to converge and you wonder whether they will all run into each other until Yandy calls out authoritatively and snares the ball for the third out.

Springs would go on to pitch six innings of three hit ball, giving up no runs. Once again I will remind our readers that Springs was a 30th round draft pick who pitched meh relief innings for two other teams until the Rays made him an effective reliever and finally a guy shutting out a top major league offense for six innings in the middle of a pennant race.

After six innings, the Rays brought on Shawn Armstrong to preserve the shut out. Armstrong is another Rays reclamation project, but with more uneven results than we’ve seen for Springs. He got through the seventh unscathed despite allowing a hit and a walk. And in a normal week that inning might have been it. But this isn’t a normal week and Cash hoped he could get another inning out of him, now facing the heart of the lineup. It didn’t go as well. Guerrero and Bichette singled, Guerrero scoring on a force out. Armstrong looked to be leaving with just the one run scored, but Matt Chapman’s single scored Bichette as well.

Cash brought in Pete Fairbanks for what would hopefully be a four-out save. Pete got the team out of the eighth. He got the first out of the 9th but gave up a single. Then catcher’s interference was called on Bethancourt, which put two men on base ahead of Toronto’s two best hitters.

I will admit, I was worried. But Fairbanks struck out Guerrero. He then had an 11-pitch battle with Bichette which ended with an anti-climactic ground out to end the game.

Pete, I’m sorry I had even a moment of doubt. The sharp slider, 100 mph fastball can and eyes that drill holes can close down any game.

So, to sum up game one: the Rays scored four despite pretty awful offensive production. Let’s hear it for productive outs and Randy on the basepaths. And thanks, Toronto defense, for making that third inning possible.

Springs and Fairbanks were great, defense was sharp, and Armstrong at least did not actually blow the lead.

Stay tuned for game two.