The opportunities to write a game story about successful Toronto Blue Jay pitching without Marcus Stroman on the mound have been few and far between, but the pitching backed up a poor offensive outing on Monday night as the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1.
Nick Tepesch’s last start, also his first as a Blue Jay, wasn’t a nightmare, but it was close to becoming one. He allowed five earned runs on eight hits in 4.1 innings and could have been expected to surrender the same type of performance on Monday.
Tepesch didn’t. He went six innings, giving the Rays just one run on a solo shot in the second inning. Tepesch did, however, struggle with command. He walked three batters and failed to garner a strikeout, despite earning the win.
Toronto’s only run came in the bottom of the first. Jose Bautista led off with what he does best — a walk — and Josh Donaldson was at the plate.
Donaldson did what he does best — hitting home runs — and the Blue Jays led, 2-0. It would be a lead the team never surrendered, despite never scoring again in the game.
But after the second inning, neither did Tampa Bay.
Tepesch handled a sliding Rays offence, and the bullpen behind him did the same. Aaron Loup pitched 1.2 innings, walking one and striking out three, while Roberto Osuna closed the game out perfectly with the last four outs. Toronto didn’t allow a hit after the third inning.
Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay’s starter, should be credited with shutting down the Blue Jays’ offence, especially when the team had scored seven runs in both of its previous two games. Odorizzi pitched six innings, giving up two earned runs while walking three and striking out four. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in an outing since July 7th.
Past Monday’s victory, the uncharacteristically long start from Tepesch and successful patch work by the bullpen will prove vital in the upcoming three games of the series. While the Rays used three different relievers, the Blue Jays only used two — one of which was a usually-unreliable pitcher.
Whether Toronto’s success continues tomorrow with Marco Estrada on the mound remains to be seen. But today’s outing, at the very least, provided hope for the back end of the Blue Jays rotation and bullpen.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkColley.