With the increasing pressure of September piling on, the Jays laid a bit of an egg tonight against Tampa Bay. It was a game of home runs and unfortunately for Toronto fans, there were more of those for the Rays on this night. It was all capped off by a rough ninth inning that just made the final result seem so much worse.
The beginning of the game started pretty straightforward with both pitchers navigating the first three innings pretty cleanly aside from a few scattered singles and walks. Marcus Stroman looked solid in the early going but did have some control issues as he surrendered three walks before the fourth inning was through. The first play that got the crowd on their feet came in the aforementioned fourth as Ezequiel Carrera was able to double up Kevin Kiermaier at first on a botched hit and run thanks to a short fly ball to right field. That play made it the third straight inning where the Blue Jays had turned a double play, which kept Stroman from finding himself in too much trouble.
Young Marcus was finally forced to pay for his inability to find the strike zone in the fifth. With one out, Corey Dickerson doubled which was then followed by a walk to Steven Souza Jr. The most painful part of that sequence was that Stroman had an 0-2 count to Souza before giving him the free pass. Next up was Alexi Ramirez who turned on an inside fastball to hit it over the left field wall to make it 3-0. Once again, the Jays righty starter had an 0-2 count before missing his spot with a fastball up to Ramirez which was quickly punished.
The Blue Jays looked like they might swing back quickly but a Melvin Upton leadoff single was erased quickly by a double play off the bat of Kevin Pillar. Carrera followed with the Jays first extra-base hit of the night, a double, but Darwin Barney flied up shortly after that to retire the side and bring the game into the sixth.
With Drew Smyly's pitch count slowly creeping upwards, Toronto finally made their move to get back into the game. With two outs and Jose Bautista on first after a walk, Russell Martin cranked a fat hanging slider into the second deck to cut the Rays lead to a solitary run. That was all it took to chase Smyly, who was not smiling, from the game after 101 pitches. The home run was the only real blemish for the Rays starter, but he went into too many deep counts and could only make it through 5.2 innings. Righty Ryan Garton came in and allowed a single to Troy Tulowitzki before Upton ended the inning.
Joe Biagini started the seventh for the Blue Jays which closed the book on Stroman after six innings allowing three runs on four hits, four walks, and recording four strikeouts. The quirky Biagini got a strikeout against Dickerson before the unexpected happened. After not allowing a home run nearly the entire season, Joe gave up what is now his third long ball in the month of September to Souza Jr! A first pitch fastball right down Broadway got crushed to make it 4-2 for the boys from Florida.
Flipping to the bottom of the seventh, we took a trip down memory lane with a few former frends coming in to pitch for the Rays. First, Pillar got a leadoff single off Garton, before lefty Dana Eveland of the 2010 Blue Jays entered to face Carrera. He did his job getting the outfielder to strike out and exited the game with his LOOGY status intact. Next came Lord Danny Farquhar of the 2011 big league squad (for about a month), to face pinch hitter Dioner Navarro who was taking Barney's place. The recently re-acquired Navarro flew out to put two outs on the board and Devon Travis at the plate. The second baseman got the job done moving over Pillar with a single to bring up Jose Bautista with the Rogers Centre crowd pumping up the noise in a big way. Jose didn't let the adrenaline get the best of him as he worked a walk to load the bases, although he certainly got a bit of help from the ump on a close call low in the zone. Edwin Encarnacion was up next and looked a little bit lost at the plate against the fastball, splitter combo of Farquhar. After going down 0-2, the Rays reliever tossed two splitters down in the dirt that were blocked expertly by Bobby Wilson. Next up was the predictable high fastball that EE couldn't quite catch up to, ending the inning and letting the air out of the balloon in the Dome.
Brett Cecil came in for the eighth and gave up a quick leadoff single to Kiermaier, which became a man on second after he swiped a bag. Luckily the lefty reliever was able to get his curveball working in a big way, striking out two batters before getting a soft grounder towards Tulo to get out of the inning.
The Jays half of the eighth produced something you don't see very often. Russell Martin, leading off, smacked a liner off new reliever Kevin Jepsen's hand which blew the glove off and sent it about 10 feet into the air. Unfortunately the ricochet went right to another defender which resulted in Martin being thrown out at first. Nothing else really happened in the rest of the inning...
The ninth frame was garbage so if you haven't already stopped reading, I wouldn't blame you if you did right now. Matt Dermody came in for Toronto and allowed a single to Dickerson before giving way to Scott Feldman. He was equally as brutal, quickly walking Souza Jr. to put men at first and second. Alexi Ramirez laid down a sac bunt which moved the runners over before a walk to Bobby Wilson loaded the bases with just one out. Logan Forsythe hit a slower grounder that was only enough to get the man at second on a force-out which scored a run and put men at the corners. Aaron Loup came in at this point and somehow, inexplicably, made the game even worse despite the contest already being all but over. A wild pitch (which could have been a passed ball) scored another to make it 6-2 before Kiermaier got hit by a fastball to put another man on. Just because three relievers wasn't torture enough, Ryan Tepera came in to get the final out.
The Jays couldn't muster anything in the bottom half, so that's all she wrote.
Russell Martin has the number for Jay of the Day but after watching that mess of a ninth inning, I'm fairly sure no one on the team deserves it.
The Suckage Jay honours are split between Edwin Encarnacion (-.205) and Melvin Upton Jr. (-.125) for some untimely outs when the result hung in the balance. All of the relievers that pitched in the ninth deserve Suckage as well for putting us through that.
Tomorrow is another day as the teams battle it out in a getaway game at 12:30pm, with Marco Estrada trying to turn the tide against Alex Cobb. Enjoy the rest of your evening!