The Tampa Bay Rays arrived in Toronto with a chance to clinch a postseason berth, but certainly did not look like a team fighting for the playoffs with their sloppy defense. The Blue Jays took full advantage of the Rays' three errors in a 6-3 win in front of 27,288 fans.
Blue Jays fans had little to cheer about in the first three innings. The offensive side was dead cold the first time through the order, with Jeremy Hellickson getting them nine up and nine down, and the closed dome did little to protect starter R.A. Dickey as he gave up solo homers to Ben Zobrist in the first and then Delmon Young in the second. I thought that we were in for one of those Dickey starts. Then to start the third inning, Sam Fuld hit a comebacker that Dickey tried to field with his barehand. It bounced off and Dickey tried valiantly to get the ball to first but Fuld ended up with a single. In the past week, the Blue Jays have seen Kyle Drabek and Mark Buehrle go down on comebackers, and I was expecting the worse. But when assistant trainer Mike Frostad and John Gibbons trotted out to the field, Dickey waved them off from his mound. Gibbons went back to the dugout but Frostad did do a quick check and left him in the game.
Things started turning for the better starting in the fourth inning, when Dickey completed a 1-2-3 inning, striking out two on the way. In the bottom half, Jose Reyes notched the Jays' first hit, singling up the middle. Seeing how the offense was doing against Hellickson, Gibbons called for Munenori Kawasaki, the designated hitter, to sacrifice bunt, which he did. Brett Lawrie reached on a rare Evan Longoria error when Longoria dropped a turf bounce. Cleanup hitter (!) Moises Sierra singled sharply through the legs of a jumping Lawrie past James Loney to score Reyes. Gose drove in Lawrie on a soft fly ball to shallow centre to tie up the game. Mark DeRosa struck out then centre fielder Sam Fuld, running in, completely misses a Ryan Goins single up the middle. The ball rolled all the way to the wall scoring the two runners. Goins, an R. Howard Webster Award winner, tried to go for the Little League home run with his parents in attendance but was thrown out at the plate by a perfect throw from Zobrist. Still, that put the home team up 4-2.
In the fifth, Hellickson got the first two batters out but walked both Reyes and Kawasaki. Lawrie looped one in to shallow left-centre to score Reyes from second, with David DeJesus mishandling the bounce off the turf. If Fuld was not right behind him backing up, Kawasaki would've likely been sent home. Sierra then smoked a liner that Longoria managed to stop, but an errant throw allowed the sixth Blue Jays run to score.
Two innings later, another scary scene happened as reliever Roberto Hernandez ran a ball up on Lawrie and we just saw him crumple to the ground, then getting up with a bloody face. Fortunately, replays showed that the pitch was a changeup, and it first hit Lawrie's shoulder before cutting his lip. Like a good Canadian, he stayed in the game, and even stole second base right away. Lawrie was taken out of the game in the bottom of the ninth, with Mark DeRosa moving to third and Ryan Langerhans making is home debut at first, but he seemed to be fine after the game, tweeting out this somewhat hockey bro photo:
It's all part of it :) pic.twitter.com/vBaumES1Fg— Brett Lawrie (@blawrie13) September 28, 2013
Meanwhile, Dickey cruised through innings three through eight. The Rogers Centre crowd gave him a rousing standing ovation when he walked off the field for the last time this season. His final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, throwing 61 of his 95 pitches for strikes. Dickey should have been satisfied with his final outing of 2013.
Sergio Santos came in and ended the eighth with one pitch, getting James Loney to ground into a 4-6-3 double play. Santos would allow an RBI-double to Kelly Johnson in the ninth to make it a 6-3 game, but struck out Luke Scott on four pitches to end the game for save number one.
The game did feature some great defensive plays for the Blue Jays. In the second, Kevin Pillar ran an efficient route on a little blooper and dove onto the hard green carpet to rob Johnson of a base hit. Later, in the seventh, Jose Reyes made a rare show of his range to the left, and combined it with an across-the-body off-balance throw to retire Young on a pretty play.
So overall a nice game on pitching, defense, and offense for the Blue Jays. And despite Joe Maddon's use of seven pitchers, the game wrapped up in a nice two hours and 42 minutes.
Jays of the Day! Moises Sierra (+.175 WPA), Ryan Goins (+.169), Sergio Santos (+.123), Brett Lawrie (+.099), and I'll give it to R.A. Dickey (+.022) too for his fine effort despite the two early homers.
No Suckage Jays today, Mark DeRosa gets the low number at -.070.
The Blue Jays will play their penultimate game of the season tomorrow and their last on Sunday against the Rays. With the Rays' loss and wins by the Indians and Rangers, the two AL Wild Card spots belong to the Indians and Rays still, but the Rangers are now just one game behind both of them.
Be sure to come out to the park early on Sunday as the Jays will be giving away a toque to the first 20,000, and the Jays Care Foundation will have a garage sale featuring old memorabilia, game-used equipment, autographed balls, and other goodies.