First win of the year!
The Blue Jays began their second series of the season on Thursday night, sending Marcus Stroman to the mound against young southpaw Blake Snell. After dropping a pair of close games in Baltimore, this new roster was still hungry for their first victory.
A pitchers duel began early on, as Snell began the first by striking out Steve Pearce, then worked his away around a two-out walk for a scoreless first. He followed that up with a three-up-three down second, striking out Russell Martin and Justin Smoak in the process.
Not to be outdone, Stroman started off his evening by striking out the first four batters he faced. When Steven Souza Jr. ended his streak with a one-out single, Stroman immediately got Logan Morrison to groundout into a double play. Scoreless through two, we were left wondering what pitcher would blink first.
The pitchers duel came to a halt in the top of the third, as Darwin Barney lined a single into left to start the rally. Nothing serious seemed to be brewing, but a pair of two-out walks to Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista loaded the bases for Kendrys Morales. A lack of clutch hits had been the story of this young season, but Morales quickly put an end to this in dramatic fashion, belting a 0-1 fastball over the wall in left-centre for a 444-foot grand slam. Blue Jays 4- Rays 0.
With a big lead in hand, Stroman picked up right where he left off, striking out Tim Beckham to begin the bottom of the third. Mallex Smith was out bunting, and Jesus Sucre hit a simple groundout to Josh Donaldson. The Blue Jays went down easily in the top of the fourth, but their starter was cruising having faced the minimum through three.
Stroman finally ran into trouble in the fourth, surrendering a pair of one-out walks to Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria. After briefly showing that he is, in fact, human, Stroman manufactured a 4-6-3 double play against Brad Miller to get himself out of the inning.
Toronto went down quietly again in the 5th, and Souza Jr. quickly put the Rays in business with a leadoff double to begin the bottom half. A quick groundout advanced Souza to third, and Stroman looked to be in trouble once again. Standing on third with just one out, Souza Jr. attempted to score on a chopper back to the mound, but a strong tag from Russell Martin got him at the plate by a hair. After retiring Smith on yet another groundout, Stroman successfully got himself out of another jam. 4-0 Blue Jays Through Five.
Snell was perfect for the third consecutive inning, meaning the Rays were back on offence in a fraction of a second. Dickerson tried to get another rally started with a one-out single, but Stroman induced his third double play of the evening courtesy of Kevin Kiermaier.
Pitching into the 7th in his first start of the year, Snell walked Russell Martin to begin the inning. Justin Smoak followed with a single, and Darwin Barney stepped up with runners on the corners and just one out. The Blue Jays turned to the safety squeeze, and bobble from Logan Morrison was enough to score Martin from third. Toronto failed to cash in any further, but nevertheless, the Jays were out to a 5-0 lead.
Stroman also returned for the seventh, but surrendering three singles in a span of four hitters promptly ended his evening. As a result, with the lead cut to four, John Gibbons turned to Joe Biagini to face Tim Beckham. Tampa Bay briefly threatened yet another comeback attempt, but for the fourth time in seven innings, the Rays hit into an inning-ending double play. Blue Jays 5, Rays 1 Through Seven.
After Tommy Hunter pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, Biagini returned to the mound having thrown just two pitches. He retired the first two hitters with ease, before surrendering a two-out double to Chris Dickerson. Gibbons kept Biagini in the game to face Kiermaier, and the right-hander rewarded his manager's confidence by inducing a groundout to end the inning. 5-1 Blue Jays Heading Into the Ninth.
Up four, Gibbons turned to veteran right-hander Joe Smith to finish things off, but the Rays would not go down quietly. After walking Brad Miller with just one-out, a double off the bat of Souza Jr. brought in Jason Grilli with the tying run on deck. A wild pitch quickly cut the lead to three, but Grilli responded well by striking out Morrison on a full count, then sitting down Rickie Weeks on three pitches.
Jays of the Day go to Kendrys Morales (.298) and Marcus Stroman (.176). Darwin Barney (.054) gets one for reaching base all four times, and Joe Biagini (.092) deserves one for getting five outs in the late innings.
Francisco Liriano takes the hill tomorrow looking to get the Jays back to .500. The 33-year old southpaw will be up against Matt Andriese starting at 7:10 PM eastern time.Late edit: Comments!