It has been famously said that 80% of life is just showing up. Whatever the merits of that proposition, it certainly wasn't the case Friday night, as the Blue Jays showed up to take on the Rays but did little else en route to an ugly 8-0 whitewash. The win expectancy chart does a pretty good job telling the story of this one:
The Jays were outplayed in all facets of the game: out-pitched, out-hit (14-2, and six extra base hits to none) and out-gloved as well. Frankly, it might have been in the latter component that the discrepancy was on fullest display. Tampa defenders, in particular Kevin Kiermayer in right field, took away a number of hits while the Jays misplayed a number of balls.
Things started off pretty well for Marcus Stroman, and slowly went downhill as the Rays kept chipping out single runs before things spiralled out of control in the sixth inning, with an assist from Aaron Loup who turned a three-alarm situation into a five-alarm blaze. In the end, that scarcely mattered, since Drew Smyly was in control from start to finish. He needed just 105 pitches (75 strikes) to go the distance in a two-hit shutout, with four strikeouts and no free passes issued.
The Jays made some decent contact the first time through the order, but Smyly prevented any damage, assisted by Kiermayer tracking down some well hit fly balls. Reyes led off the first inning with a solid single, and was promptly erased as Melky Cabrera grounded into a DP. In the bottom of the third, Colby Rasmus led off with a pop-up down the first-base line in foul territory. A fan in the TD seats showed some great hands, reaching in front of the diving Loney to make a barehanded catch. Unfortunately for Rasmus, fan interference was called and he was out.
One batter later, the #9 hitter Steve Tolleson pulled a single into left field with 2 out. It would be the last time a Blue Jay hitter reached base, as the next 19 batters were retired in order as Smyly faced one over the minimum. He mixed, matched and located to keep the Jays completely off balance, and there were few well hit balls after this point. This marked the second time this week that the Blue Jays were completely shut down after the early innings, as on Tuesday Milwaukee pitching retired the last 24 batters in order after a Rasmus double in the second inning.
Pitching wise, Stroman started strong with a seven-pitch, three-up-three-down first inning punctuated by painting the inside corner at 95 mph to freeze Matt Joyce. Evan Longoria led off the second by turning on a first pitch fastball on the inside corner at the belt and hammering it out. Stroman missed his spot, but it was not a terrible pitch--Longoria showed why he's one of the best hitters on the planet. Stroman got two easy outs before yielding a couple of bloop singles, but got Kiermayer to roll over an easy grounder to Reyes for the third out.
With two out in the third, Stroman walked Joyce, though appeared to get squeezed on a couple pitches. Longoria hit a bouncer through the infield for a second straight two out threat, but Stroman induced a flyout from Joyce to end the threat and keep things at 1-0. In the fourth, he was not so lucky. After a leadoff walk to Wil Myers, he got back to back strikeouts, but
Brett Gardner Kiermayer (is it just me, or is this guy the next divisional rival Jays killer?), grounded one up the middle to cash Myers, and took second when Rasmus failed to promptly get the ball back in. Despite Jennings hitting a bunt single, Stroman once again contained the damage.
In the fifth, a couple of defensive miscues cost the Blue Jays a third run. Joyce led off the inning with a fly ball Bautista probably should have caught, but he took a terrible route and ended up just missing the ball. After Longoria walked, Stroman induced a routine ground ball that should have been an easy double play, but Tolleson made a poor throw and Edwin Encarnacion couldn't scoop it, which allowed Matt Joyce to score. Stroman again limited the damage, ringing up Myers looking and getting our old friend Yunel Escobar to fly out, but the damage was done.
In the sixth, things totally fell apart. Whereas in the early going the hits Stroman gave up were mostly of the seeing-eye variety, he gave up back-to-back-back hard hit singles to score another. With his pitch count above 100, John Gibbons went to his middle inning fireman Loup hoping to contain the damage. Loup could not do that, somewhat snakebitten himself. The first two batters reached on a jammed ground ball in RF, a ground ball to second that Tolleson was too slow flipping to Reyes, and a double smashed down the LF line. He was fortunate not to give up any more than 3, as the Jays turned a questionable inning-ending double play that Joe Maddon (mercifully) didn't challenge. The coup-de-grace was watching Escobar leisurely enjoying some popcorn in the dugout.
At that point, the game was essentially over. Drabek came in the for the seventh, and had a reasonably successful inning despite loading the bases. Once again, he was helped by the gloves behind him, as with 1 out he induced a full count pop-up that landed just beyond Reyes in the Bermuda triangle in centrefield. He then alternated walks and strikeouts to the end of the inning, but had good movement on his pitches and got some good whiffs. 34 pitches is too many for one inning (as is 24 if the pop-up is caught, all else equal).
Todd Redmond came in for eighth, and his outing featured exactly what one would expect of Todd Redmond. He struck out the first batter on four pitches, with two fastball whiffs. Wil Myers was next, and he started with three pitches at the top of the zone, one whiffed on and missed. Myers did not make the same mistake on the fourth pitch, and demolished a fastball up in the zone for a home run. Brett Cecil came on for the ninth and had a the first three-up-three-down inning since the first, with a strikeout and two weak ground outs.
Jays of the Day: None, by the numbers. I'll give one to Drabek, for looking reasonably good, with two strikeout, two pop-ups induced, and despite the two walks. And for not going completely red and disintegrating when the pop-up fell in as he might have circa 2011-12.
Suckage Jays: By the numbers, just Stroman (-0.169) and Cabrera (-0.106, essentially the GIDP in the 1st). But that's just because there were 15 guys in the game, and only -0.500 of WPA to go around. So much suckage, so little WPA: really, throw a dart at the board and you'll likely hit someone who deserves one. (Note: I originally gave one to Loup, but after reviewing the condensed game that was too harsh).
Tomorrow Mark Buehrle takes on Jeremy Hellickson in a 1:07 ET start. Let's hope the Jays got all the ugly of their system tonight and that this series has a second masterful outing from a soft-tossing lefty.