Whether the Blue Jays were winning or losing, you wouldn’t be able to tell the score of the game from the sedated St. Petersburg crowd. The eventual 8-4 win was never guaranteed, and, likewise, never discernible from the fans at Tropicana Field.
Toronto was down early, courtesy of an ultimately ineffective start from pitcher Francisco Liriano. For the first time since his first start of the season, Liriano didn’t lower his ERA, giving up three earned runs over 3.2 innings pitched. He gave up five walks over that span, while allowing two home runs.
Walks have not-so-quickly become an issue for Liriano. In his three most recent starts, including tonight, he’s given batters a total of 13 free passes over 14 innings.
Toronto’s bullpen was forced to complete the remaining 5.1 innings of the game, and did an admirable job doing so. Danny Barnes was the first on in relief, pitching 2.1 perfect innings, followed by Dominic Leone, who gave up one unearned run. The subsequent combination of Aaron Loup, Joe Smith and Roberto Osuna (who appears to be in mid-season form) sealed out the victory.
In the top of the seventh, the Blue Jays were down 3-1 to the Rays. Russell Martin began the inning with a walk, setting the table for Kendrys Morales. He had seen four pitches from Chris Archer, two of which were four-seam fastballs. Archer left the fifth pitch of the at bat on the outside part of the plate for Morales, who slugged it to the right field bleachers to tie the game, 3-3.
The Blue Jays didn’t have a chance to celebrate the lead. The Rays rebounded in the bottom half of the inning, beginning with a lead-off single from Evan Longoria. Steven Souza Jr. followed, reaching base on an error by Chris Coghlan. Corey Dickerson then singled on a reviewed call, loading the bases.
Against Aaron Loup, Daniel Robertson hit a ground ball to Justin Smoak, who was playing just off of first base. Smoak, instinctual, stepped on first before throwing home, where the runner was safe, giving the Rays a 4-3 lead. It appeared as if Smoak had thrown towards home first, the extra run may have been prevented. It didn’t matter.
In the top of the eighth, Devon Travis lead off the inning with a double, followed by Kevin Pillar, who drove in Travis to tie the game. Following a Russell Martin walk, Morales did it again. He hammered a shot to the right field bleachers, making it 7-4 for Toronto. Justin Smoak added on to the lead with a solo shot of his own. 8-4 Blue Jays.
Morales, in total, went 3-4 with two home runs and a double. He ended the game with five RBIs, providing one final reminder of his elite play before Edwin Encarnacion returns to the Rogers Centre with Cleveland on May 8th. Not that there’s any association between those two statements. None at all...
Tomorrow, the Blue Jays will look to win the series against the Rays with a (relatively) late start time of 4:10 ET. Marco Estrada, who struggled in his only start against the Rays this season, will be on the mound for the Blue Jays, while Jake Odorizzi will get the start for Tampa Bay. Tune in to the game on SNET-1 or SN590.
Follow Mark Colley on Twitter: @MarkColley.