The Blue Jays have fully embraced the role of spoiler, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 7-2 behind a solid start by J.A. Happ. With the Rays loss and Rangers win, the two teams are now tied for the second A.L. wild card spot, with Cleveland leading both teams by a game. So, if the Indians lost and the Rays and Rangers win tomorrow, there would be a three-way tie for the two wild card slots!
The Rays brought this situation upon themselves, losing two games against the Blue Jays' Bisons-esque lineup and scoring just one run against J.A. Happ this afternoon.
Like Friday's game, the Rays jumped to an early lead in the first inning. Wil Myers drove in Ben Zobrist, who hit a lead off double, when he hit a sharp ball to third which was deflected by Brett Lawrie. But single run would be it for the Rays against starter Happ, who retired 11 in a row between the second and sixth innings. Happ, who was supposed to be the Buffalo Bisons' ace, finished the 2013 season with a strong outing, throwing 7.1 innings of five-hit one-run ball, striking out four and walking just one. Lady luck was on Happ's side--it seemed that he made use of every inch of the Rogers Centre, giving up quite a few warning track shots.
With R.A. Dickey pitching eight innings on Friday, this became only the first time this season where two consecutive Blue Jays starters have gotten at least one out in the eighth inning. After Happ, Aaron Loup came in for his club-leading 65th appearance, posting zeros in his 0.2 innings pitched before Dustin McGowan came in to finish the game. McGowan gave up double that was just out of the reach of Anthony Gose and a run on a ground out, but looked great when he struck out Yunel Escobar to end the game.
The Blue Jays struck first in the third inning, when Jose Reyes, Brett Lawrie, and Adam Lind strung together three straight singles against Chris Archer, good enough for a run. Joe Maddon had a very short leash for Archer, taking him out after just 3.1 innings. In the fourth, Adam Lind struck again, singling in Ryan Langerhans to give the Jays a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, he looked like he injured his back on that play and had to be replaced by Munenori Kawasaki in his next at bat.
The fifth inning was fun, especially for Buffalo Bisons fans. Ryan Goins, who received his R. Howard Webster Award before the game, hit a two-run homer, scoring Anthony Gose, then Kevin Pillar followed suit with another two run homer later in the inning.
Highlights of the game include Pillar's great effort to catch a dying quail, smooth running catches by Anthony Gose, a great diving catch by Lawrie, and his over-the-shoulder catch of a popup. The lowlight was probably a popup in the second that no one in the infield got to.
Lawrie went 2-for-3 with two walks, Adam Lind went 2-for-3 with three RBI, and Ryan Langerhans went 2-for-3 with a walk in his first home start.
Jays of the Day! J.A. Happ (+.193 WPA), and Brett Lawrie (+.167). Ryan Langerhans (+.085) gets an honorable mention.
Again, no Suckage Jays, but Josh Thole had the low number at -.084.
Just one more game left for the Blue Jays in 2013! They will finish this season in last place, either 74-88 or 75-87. But hey, at least they are guaranteed to have a better record than last year. Todd Redmond is the scheduled starter, and the Jays hitters will face Matt Moore. Darren Oliver had asked to start, but with tomorrow being a meaningful game for the Rays, it's likely that John Gibbons will deny his request, but I do expect that he will throw tomorrow so he can get a proper farewell.