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Jays pull out a close one to avoid sweep

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MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

Rays 1 Blue Jays 2

For a good portion of the day, it looked like the Jays were in for the sweep as the bats were stymied by Tyler Glasnow, but a late rally provided just enough to eke out the series finale and stave off the brooms.

Marcus Stroman turned in a very good start despite a significant blister issue that ultimately forced an early departure after 5 innings. He did work around some trouble, with just one totally clean inning, but also helped himself significantly a couple times flashing the leather where his background as an infielder shone though.

The one run he (and the Jays) allowed came in the 4th inning, after a leadoff single was advanced to third on a couple groundouts to first, followed by a ground ball that just tricked past a diving Aledmys Diaz into left field. It was a ball that was emblematic of the difference between an okay defensive shortstop and a good/great defensive shortstop.

Stroman worked out of a two on jam in the second inning, and niftily snared a line drive leading off the 3rd inning that had eyes for centre and a leadoff single. His best defensive play might have kept a second run off the board. After a leadoff double to start the 5th, the Rays tried to bunt the prospective insurance run to third. Mallex Smith laid down a pretty good bunt towards the third base side. But Stroman dove on it in a hurry, rolled and threw a strike to third where the play wasn’t even close. One batter later he was out of the inning on a routine GIDP.

Unfortunately, the bats were not holding their end of the bargain, setting up Stroman for the tough luck loss. There were a couple opportunities, as Russell Martin led off the 3rd with a double but was stranded there. Devon Travis led off the 4th with a single and stole second, advancing to third with one out on a bounceout. But he too was stranded there, as Randall Grichuk couldn’t get a ball in play/in the air to plate him.

The Jays finally broke through in the 6th, as Luke Maile walked leading off the inning which ended Glasnow’s afternoon, and the Jays jumped on Jose Alvarado out of the bullpen. Kevin Pillar greeted him with a double, and then Travis hung the inherited runner on him with an RBI single up the middle. After a Justin Smoak strikeout, Grichuk once again had an opportunity to cash a runner from third with one out.

He didn’t really, hitting a little nubber in front of the plate. On the throw to first, Pillar broke home on a quasi-delayed steal, just barely getting his hand in before the throw back and tag. It was the definition of a manufactured run, and it proved the difference.

The bullpen did a strong job holding the line the rest of the way, which was especially important since the Jays managed to once again not cash a leadoff double in the 8th. Jaime Garcia worked a clean 6th, turning it over to Danny Barnes who got the first two outs before working into a two out jam. Tyler Clippard came in for one batter to clean it up, and Ryan Tepera and Ken Giles worked clean innings in the 8th and 9th (the latter not without some dramatics).

Jays of the Day: I’ll start with Stroman (+0.147 WPA) despite not having the biggest number, but he was instrumental in keeping the Jays in it while the bats sputtered. Giles (+0.170), Tepera (+0.125) and Clippard (+0.097) all hit the number, though Garcia (+0.058) was arguably the most effective. At the plate it was Pillar (+0.128, without being credited for anything scoring the second run) and Travis (+0.141)

Suckage: Smoak (-0.110) and Morales (-0.104) didn’t do any big bopping. Grichuk (-0.052) doesn’t hit the number, but only because he gets credited with about +0.050 for Pillar scoring on his bounceout when he failed to get the job done. So he gets one too.

Tomorrow, the Jays are in Kansas City to open a four game series at 8:15 EDT, with Sean Reid-Foley set to make his major league debut against Brad Keller.