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Jays Out-dueled by Rays, Lose 4-1

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays
Cavan Biggio crashes into Willy Adames trying to get back to 2nd on a pickoff throw in the 4th.
Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

It was a disappointing afternoon at the emptier than usual Trop for the Blue Jays. They were unable to do anything with a very good start from Matt Shoemaker, and a meltdown by Sam Gaviglio in the 8th gave the Rays all they needed to take the win.

Ryan Yarborough started for the Rays and kept the Blue Jays’ hitters off balance for five and a third shutout innings. He only managed one strikeout, but was able to locate all his off-speed pitches, and especially his change-up, all day to prevent much solid contact. The Jays were so off balance from those pitches that they let several 86mph fastballs over the heart of the plate get by them.

The Jays managed to threaten in the fourth, thanks to some adventurous base running. Cavan Biggio singled, then advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. Guerrero hit a ball hard, but right at Kevin Kiermaier in centre field. With Travis Shaw at bat, Biggio broke for third before Yarborough had entered his windup before turning around and trying to get back to second. Yarborough made a bad throw, leading to an awkward looking collision between Biggio sliding back into the bag and Willy Adames attempting to cover. Biggio was safe, and Yarborough’s focus seemed to slip for a moment, causing him to walk Travis Shaw. Randal Grichuk hit a hard grounder back to the mound on the next pitch, which Yarborough was able to knock down but not catch, loading the bases. Teoscar Hernandez nearly broke the game open with a deep fly to centre field, but Kiermaier was able to bring it in to end the inning.

Matt Shoemaker was able to match him pitch for pitch for five innings. He had a little trouble in the first, with a slapped grounder against the shift getting Brandon Lowe on and a line drive single by Yandy Diaz moving him over to third, but was able to get out of it thanks to a pop-out by Ji-Man Choi and a nice shoetop catch of a low Joey Wendle liner by Santiago Espinal. He mostly cruised for the next four innings, although Kevin Kiermaier gave the Jays a scare with a fly ball to the wall in left field in the fifth inning. Rays’ catcher Michael Perez lead off the sixth by working a walk. He was lifted for a pinch runner, Michael Brosseau, who immediately scored on a Ji-Man Choi double to the wall in the left field gap. Brosseau doesn’t look like a pinch runner (he’s listed at 5’10” and 215), and he nearly blew a tire rounding third, but he was able to get the job done. Shoemaker then got Brandon Lowe to strike out on a nasty splitter on the outside corner and back to back groundouts from Diaz and Yoshi Tsutsugo.

All in all, Shoemaker went 6 innings, allowing one run on 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 4. I’ll take that every day from my starter, and I’m glad Reese McGuire was able to eventually score to allow him to avoid a hard luck loss.

AJ Cole worked a clean inning of relief in the seventh, but needed luck to do it. Joey Wendle and Manuel Margot hit towering flies to the track, and Kiermaier hit a sharp grounder over the second base bag that would have been a single if Bo Bichette hadn’t been shifted behind the base.

Sam Gaviglio came in for the eighth. It stated promisingly, with a K of Willy Adames on a high fastball. Then Mike Zunino, hitting for Brosseau, poked a soft line single to centre. Hunter Renfroe came in to run for him. Gaviglio then walked Choi and gave up a back breaking two run triple to Lowe. The game was pretty much over at this point, but Gaviglio compounded the damage by balking Lowe home and walking Diaz on four pitches. It was a brutal meltdown to watch. Brian Moran was brought in to stop the bleeding, and was able to strike Tsutsugo out and get Joey Wendle to to ground out softly.

On the hitting side, there wasn’t a lot to report. The Jays seem to struggle against junk ballers, and today was no exception. As a squad they managed eight hits and two walks against five strikeouts.

  • Reese McGuire (C) crushed a home run to right field of Rays reliever Peter Fairbanks in the seventh. He grounded out his other three times up.
  • Cavan Biggio (2B) was the other hitter who had a good day, with two line drive singles through the shift and a walk. His other time out he flied out to the track.
  • Lourdes Gurriel jr. (LF) lined a single to left that was almost robbed by a beautiful dive from Brandon Lowe. He also flied out to the track, popped out and grounded out.
  • Vlad Guerrero Jr. (DH) smashed a ground ball single that almost drilled Gurriel running from first to second base, and lined out hard.
  • Travis Shaw (1B) singled, walked, and made a very nice diving grab to help Moran end the eighth inning.
  • Randal Grichuk (CF) singled on a ground ball of Yarborough’s glove
  • Bo Bichette singled in the seventh inning.
  • Teoscar Hernandez (RF) went hitless with one strikeout each. Santiago Espinal, making his MLB debut, did the same, but at least chipped in a nice catch at third. He was pinch hit for in the seventh inning by Joe Panik, who struck out and grounded out.

There was some typical Rays weirdness in the game today. Some of it worked and some didn’t. On the positive side, they made use of carrying three catchers by pinch hitting for both Michael Perez and Mike Zunino, relying on Kevan Smith to catch the ninth. It’s uncommen to see a team voluntarily put themselves in a position where they have not catchers on the bench, but it worked out well here. Both pinch runners scored from first on extra base hits.

On the less effective side, they played a four man outfield against Cavan Biggio, with two fielders shifted towards first base and one covering the bunt towards third. Biggio’s as good a candidate for that treatment as any player in baseball. Last season, among players who took at least 300 PA, only Mike Trout hit a lower percentage of ground balls, and only 24 hitters pulled the ball more often. You can be pretty sure that a grounder to third or short isn’t coming with Biggio at bat, so moving the third baseman out to catch flies in the outfield might be a smart trade-off. Today, though, Biggio was able to just hit liners right through the shift and work a walk. There’s really no defending against that.

Jays of the Day: Shoemaker (0.167 WPA) and McGuire (0.121) had the number, and I’ll throw one to Biggio as well for getting on 3 times.

Suckage: Sam Gaviglio (-0.364) richly deserves this one. Gricuk and Hernandez also had the number, but really the entire offense with the exception of the two guys mentioned above should share the dishonour.

DangYouToHeck lead us down to defeat this afternoon.

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