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Congratulations to Kevin Herget: Rays 2, Blue Jays 7

Two wins in a day was too much to ask.

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

After winning Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader in suspenseful fashion, the Rays sent Yonny Chirinos to the mound for his first big league start since August 2020. Last week, Chirinos came out of the bullpen in his first appearance of the season against Boston. He threw three scoreless innings, allowing four hits, one walk, and striking out four.

There was also roster news in between games, with Brandon Lowe heading back to the injured list with a back issue, the same injury that kept him on the shelf for most of the summer months. René Pinto was called up and will serve as the third catcher on the active roster.

Alek Manoah was scheduled to start the earlier game, but a stomach bug pushed him back to the late game. Manoah has built upon his impressive rookie season, throwing 171 innings with a 2.42 ERA, which ranks fourth in the American League.

Both starters leaned on their sinkers and got through the first two innings with relative ease. Then, a slumping Ji-Man Choi smacked a hanging 3-2 slider into the second level out in right field for a solo home run. It was only Choi’s third home run since the All-Star Break and the Rays’ first since September 6th.

In the top of the fourth, Randy Arozarena stole his 30th base of the season, being the first Ray since Mallex Smith in 2018 to reach that total. He still sits at 19 home runs, and one more would give him his second consecutive 20/20 season.

The Blue Jays threatened with runners in scoring position in both the third and fourth innings, but Chirinos was able to keep them off the board. He started the fifth, but after hitting the leadoff man Matt Chapman, Cash turned the game over to the bullpen.

Garrett Cleavinger came in and retired three straight Blue Jays to finish the inning. He came back out for the sixth and allowed a leadoff double to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He got Bo Bichette to ground out, which moved Guerrero Jr. to third, and then was lifted for another lefty, Jalen Beeks. An RBI groundout from Alejandro Kirk tied the game at one apiece going into the seventh inning.

It didn’t take long for the Rays to retake their lead, with Jonathan Aranda hitting his first career home run to lead off the seventh. The rookie sent Manoah’s change up the opposite way, getting just enough for it to carry over the left field wall.

Keeping with the theme of lefty relievers, Colin Poche was next to enter the game. The inning started with a four-pitch walk to pinch hitter Santiago Espinal, which quickly sent Cash to the bullpen phone to get Jason Adam warming. Poche followed that up by striking out Matt Chapman. His command continued to be an issue in the next at bat as he threw two wild pitches en route to walking Danny Jansen, giving Toronto runners on the corners with just one out.

Whit Merrifield doubled in two runs to make it 3-2 Blue Jays, and George Springer’s two-run homer gave them a three-run lead. I’m not sure Cash was planning on going to Adam, but after the Springer blast, it was no longer necessary. Instead, he brought in Kevin Herget to make his long-awaited big league debut. Congrats, Kevin Herget.

The Rays threatened again in the eighth inning with two singles from Harold Ramírez and Isaac Paredes, but with two outs and Aranda coming up, the Blue Jays turned to their closer Jordan Romano. Despite the handedness advantage, Cash brought in Yandy Díaz to pinch hit for Aranda. Díaz grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

The Blue Jays added two more insurance runs off of Herget in the eighth, but they didn’t really need to. Zach Pop came in to finish off the game in the ninth and allowed a walk but nothing else. Blue Jays win 7-2.

Sweeping a doubleheader against the Blue Jays was always going to be tough, but I think it’s fair to question Cash for not pulling Poche before the lead vanished, and for removing Aranda in the eighth inning. The Rays still sit comfortably in the third AL Wild Card spot, but hosting postseason games in the first round is becoming more unlikely. There are still two more games in Toronto this week before the Rays return home to take on the Rangers. Tomorrow, Drew Rasmussen will take the mound, going up against Ross Stripling.