The word stripling is a noun that refers to a young man. It was clear Wednesday night that Ross Stripling a fully grown man on the mound as the Tampa Bay Rays were no match for the Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher.
Stripling was aided in his efforts from some early run support. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. took a Drew Rasmussen fastball deep over the wall just beyond the reach of a leaping Randy Arozarena. The homer was home run number 100 of his career to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.
Career homer number #PLAKATA pic.twitter.com/jq1MwuefR8— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 14, 2022
Drew Rasmussen saw better results in the top of the second inning as it was his only clean inning of the game. For a moment, it felt like the Rays would have a chance to keep pace but between the offense not producing and the Blue Jays getting into a hitting groove, it was not meant to be for the Rays in this game.
Stripling retired the first five Rays batters he faced before Manuel Margot hit a double to left in the second inning and became the first baserunner for the Rays. Margot was left stranded on second as the inning ended on a Christian Bethancourt strikeout.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the bottom of the third with no outs following a leadoff single from Santiago Espinal, a single from Jackie Bradley Jr., and a walk to George Springer. Then came Vlad Jr. to the plate again, though, this time he hit a grounded into a forceout at second while scoring Espinal. Bo Bichette followed with a RBI-single to score Bradley Jr. Both scoring plays came with two strikes. Ultimately the Rays would get out of what could have been a much more disastrous inning only trailing 3-0.
Any hope of a comeback kept growing fainter by the inning. Stripling retired the Rays in order in the top of the fourth inning.
In the bottom of the fourth Danny Jansen hit a leadoff double off Rasmussen. He later scored on an Espinal single to make it a 4-0 lead for the Blue Jays. Rasmussen turns out to be human after all as his performance was not what he has provided recently. He finished his night with 4.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, and 1 HR on 67 pitches.
Given the fact that Stripling only gave up more than three runs once this season, this felt like a lead that would be improbable to comeback from as long as he was on the mound.
Josh Fleming replaced Rasmussen in the fifth inning and got off to a good start retiring the side in order. Then, in the sixth inning the Blue Jays did not let up as Danny Jansen hit double on a full count with two outs. He scored on a Ramiel Tapia single making it a 5-0 lead for the Blue Jays through six innings.
The Rays offense came out of hibernation briefly in the top of the seventh inning. Harold Ramirez hit a leadoff home run to make it a 5-1 game.
Harold barreled this ball up to get us on the board— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 15, 2022
MLB x @FTX_Official pic.twitter.com/jKbd1rbyTF
Later in the inning Adam Cimber came in to replace Stripling and the Rays had their chance to rally. Margot hit a single with one out and then a mental error occurred for the Jays. Bethancourt hit a ground ball to Espinal in time for the most routine of all routine double plays. However, Espinal never looks at second and throws to first for the second out allowing Margot to advance. Next, Cimber walked Paredes and suddenly the Rays were one swing of the bat away from only trailing by one run. That swing came from Jonathan Aranda pinch hitting for Walls but it was a grounder to Matt Chapman for a forceout at third base leaving the runners stranded like a canceled ride share.
Ross Stripling #NextLevel | @BlueJays pic.twitter.com/VFn1Sx9Ru5— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) September 15, 2022
The Rays tried to get something going in the eighth inning as well. Yandy Diaz and Wander Franco hit back-to-back singles with no outs on Yimi Garcia. Instead of getting anything positive with the runners on base, Garcia recorded three straight strikeouts against Arozarena, Ramirez, and Ji-Man Choi. The Rays finished the game 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
One last Bethancourt single in the ninth was the last glimmer of hope for the Rays in this game as they lost 5-1.
The Rays now are in sole possession of the third Wild Card slot within a week of having an outside shot at winning the division. Tomorrow is the last game in this series and the Rays would definitely benefit from a head-to-head wins over the Blue Jays in order to climb back up the Wild Card rankings. First pitch is 3:07pm ET with Shane McClanahan starting for the Rays and Kevin Gausman for the Blue Jays.