Over the years, the Tampa Bay Rays have employed plenty of Blue Jays killers. This is only day eight of the Bo Bichette era, and in fairness he’s been torching everyone, but perhaps the Jays have found the kryptonite for their historical woes at the Trop.
Bichette led off the game with a double, immediately cashed in by a single by Cavan Biggio to stake the Jays to a very quick 1-0 lead. He was stranded, as was a 2nd inning double by Randall Grichuk, so when Bichette came back up to the plate leading off the 3rd inning he wisely decided not to bother relying on others behind him in smashing a fly ball 375 feet to right centre.
And it was a good thing he did, because other that the Jays alternated between doing nothing and squandering opportunities. From the last out of the 4th until the top of the 9th, 13 straight Jays went down against Tampa pitching, four straight innings of going down in order.
It’s fitting that the stretch spanned though two innings in particular, a bookend to two golden opportunities to get some critical insurance runs in a place where the Jays have seen more than their share of horrors over the years. Both times the Jays put runners on 1st and 2nd with none out, both times the next three went down in order and they came away empty.
Thus Bichette accounted for the entire offensive output, which is usually not a situation conducive to winning. But Jacob Waguespack was more than up to the task. Certain geniuses on this here site (we won’t name any names) were not terribly impressed last November when the Jays added him to the 40-man ahead of the Rule 5 draft ahead of others. And there’s been ups-and-downs, and certainly a long way to go.
But tonight, the guy who went undrafted out of Ole Miss in 2015 spun six very solid innings, not allowing a runner past second base through his own fault. After setting down the side in 1st, he had to work around a couple of miscues, as first Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and then Bichette committed errors, the latter putting runners on the corners with two out. But Waguespack struck out Mike Zunino to prevent any damage on the scoreboard.
His next two innings were uneventful, as he faced the minimum with a leadoff single in the third erased on line drive double play. Had his outing ended then, it would have qualified as outstanding, but the last two innings were a little more difficult. He allowed back-to-back singles to start the fourth before getting Zunino to pop out and inducing an inning ending 5-4-3 double play to stop the nascent rally in its tracks.
He got into a little more trouble in the 6th, a walk and single sandwiched around a pair of strikeouts before a fly out to end the inning. In all, he allowed just four hits (all singles) with the lone free pass against four strikeouts.
The game was turned over the pen and Justin Shafer for the 7th, and things almost went pear-shaped. Bichette committed a second error to put the leadoff runner on, followed by Travis d’Arnaud punching a one out single. The Jays caught a huge break when Michael Brosseau danced too far off second base and was picked off, especially as the next batter walked and the bases would have loaded with one out. Instead, a groundout ended the inning.
Three seperate relievers got groundouts in a perfect eighth. Shafer started the inning, Tim Mayza got Austin Meadows, and then Derek Law came in because...reasons, I’m sure. I can’t wait until next year for the three batter minimum rule, this being Exhibit A for why it’s needed. Anyway, Law worked a clean 9th for the save. Derek Law, closer...isn’t 2019 special?
This was not the only Jays-Rays matchup, as the single-A affiliates split a doubleheader down in Bowling Green after a rainout yesterday with playoff implications as the minor leagues have just a month left. Lansing fell 3-1 in the first game, but built a 3-0 lead in the second as Cobi Johnson dominated with five no hit innings. It didn’t last very long once he left, a three run sixth tying up the game to send it to extras, at which point Lansing got some help blowing it open.
Starting with a runner on second, Otto Lopez just wanted to move him along. After popping up a bunt foul, he got one down to the pitcher...who pegged a rising fastball right up the line, scoring the runner and sending Lopez to third. Then the fun really started if you like small ball. Reggie Pruitt laid down a bunt himself, in front of the plate so Lopez couldn’t move but Pruitt easily beat it out. One pitch later, Pruitt stole second. The next pitch went right to back stop, scoring not only Lopez from third but also Pruitt from second. Bunt single, stolen base, two base wild pitch to score on four pitches.
Jays of the Day: Waguespack (+0.357 WPA), Bichette (+0.117, the errors might have dragged him below but you account for all the scoring in a game your team wins, you get a JoTD), Shafer (+0.121), Law (+0.103)
Blew Jays: Derek Fisher (-0.094) and Reese McGuire (-0.087), each 0-for-4 with two strikeouts but at least no balls of the face.
Tomorrow, the Jays will look to lock down the series win with Trent Thornton facing off against the notorious TBD at the usual 7:05 PM eastern start time.