Rays 11 Jays 7
There’s dumb, there’s believing the Earth is flat, and then there’s intentionally walking Alen Hanson — he of the .236/.268/.379 career line — to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate with no margin for error. Fortunately for Rays manager Kevin Cash, he had home plate umpire Quinn Wolcott to bail him out.
As the Jays mounted a furious rally in the 7th and 8th innings to pull within one run after falling down 8-0, Hanson came up against reliever Diego Castillo with two out, Teoscar Hernandez at 3rd as the tying run and Richard Urena on 2nd as the go ahead run. Castillo fell behind 2-0, at which Cash made the call to put him on and instead face Luke Maile. Granted, Maile isn’t going to be confused with Mike Piazza, but it also gives the pitcher no margin for error: a pitch gets away a bit and clips the batter, and it’s tied. Not to mention Maile had just hit a home run his last time up.
Sure enough, Castillo immediately lost the zone, issuing three straight balls. And that’s where Wolcott came in:
The fourth pitch slider barely clips the zone. At best a marginal strike most of the time, but okay, pitchers generally get anything close 3-0.
But the follow-up slider wasn’t close, and it’s not like Castillo pegged the glove or anything. He was wild, and Wolcott rewarded him anyway. I generally don’t support Wiki-vandalism, but I can understand how the events of this evening confused a Torontonian. Maile then took a slider that actually was over the plate for strike three, and the wind was out of the sails.
Alas, that was only one of numerous blunders or squandered opportunities on the evening. But before that, let’s touch on how how the Jays found themselves in an eight run hole to begin with because in a way it was very impressive indeed.
Trent Thornton turned in an excellent couple of starts to begin his career, but the Rays absolutely crushed him tonight literally right from the beginning. Austin Meadows, whom the Rays pilfered from Pittsburgh as part of the Chris Archer highway robbery, homered leading off. Thornton worked around a double and leadoff single the next inning to sort of settle in.
Until he faced Meadows leading off the third, that is. Meadows turned on a hanging curveball over the inside corner, and crushed a ball that ended up three rows into the 500 level just inside the right field line. I believe that’s the first 500 level home run since Bo Schultz was tagged for moonshot against San Diego on July 25th, 2016 (which a few of BBBers were there to see in all its grandeur).
There was not a 33 month wait this time for the next one. There was not even a 33 week, 33 day, 33 hours or even 33 minute wait. Four batters later, Brandon Lowe smashed a 87 MPH cookie to almost the same spot for a two run shot to make 4-0. He crushed the Jays in Spring Training, and in the minors, and Tampa just signed him to a deal that will keep him around to 2026 so he’s well on his way to being the next Jays-killer. Speaking of those, Kevin Kiermaier tripled two batter later to bring home Yandy Diaz and make it 5-0.
Nonetheless, Thornton was back out for the 4th, but a single and walk ended his evening. Sam Gaviglio came in and got a double play to keep Tampa in check, and in fact stifled them until a two out RBI single from Tommy Pham in the 6th (6-0).
Elvis Luciano came for the 7th, seemingly in a spot where he could do little real damage, but in perfect hindsight he wouldn’t have been used. He surrendered a leadoff single and then Lowe took him yard for his second home run of the game. His next pitch was a fastball up and in for a HBP, which I can only hope was just characteristic wildness and not intent. He loaded the bases but induced and inning ending double play to avoid further damage.
To this point, the Jays had done precious little offensively, not getting their first baserunner or hit until the 5th and well on their way to another anemic loss. Then the bats suddenly woke up in the 7th: Smoak walked, Grichuk singled, Teoscar doubled home a run, and Gurriel doubled home two more. An out later, Hanson singled home the fourth run, before Luke Maile deposited a ball just over the left field wall off a stunned Yonny Chirinos.
In a matter of a couple minutes, it was a game at 8-6, and with two out Freddy Galvis doubled off reliever Adam Kolarek. With Smoak back up, an 0-1 pitch got away and Galvis tried and failed to take third. It’s a boneheaded move unless you’re absolutely sure, though it turned out to only be half the boneheadedness. The replay showed he probably got in safely, but Charlie Montoyo failed to challenge it, and the inning and rally were over.
That brought us to the 8th. Smoak again walked leading off, going to third on a one out Teoscar single. After a mound visit, Rowdy Tellez pinch hit, which forced the Rays to stick with the righty Castillo instead of bringing in a lefty; Montoyo partially redeeming himself with some good tactic. Alas, Tellez struck out. An error did bring in a run and extend the inning, which brings us to the decisive sequence above.
The less said about the 9th the better. Guerra’s had a nice start to the season, but showed why he was available as a minor league signing, getting completely tattooed. Jose Alvarado blew away the Jays. So it goes.
Jays of the Day: Urena has the number, but that’s entirely due to the error, so no dice. Let’s give one to Smoak (+0.093 WPA), and to Gaviglio (-0.032) for serviceably holding the line.
Suckage: Thornton (-0.309), Guerra (-0.149), and Tellez (-0.117) are the only ones by the numbers. But I’ve got a few more to hand out: Galvis, for a rally-killing advance; Luciano, for the mess of a 7th that turned out to matter; Montoyo, for not challenging a play he should have; Wolcott, see the chart above; Cash, just because I can. I should add McKinney (-0.075) but I’ve hit my quota.
It is often said that the great thing about baseball is that no matter how bad a particular game is, there’s always another one tomorrow. Given the start to the season, one’s mileage may vary on the view, but in any event Clay Buchholz is scheduled to make his Blue Jays debut tomorrow against Blake Snell at 3:07 EDT. So, that’ll probably go better...