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Espinal homers, Jays beat Rays

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

Rays 3 at Blue Jays 6

Starters Ross Stripling and Shane McClanahan engaged in what passes for an old-fashioned pitcher’s duel in 2021, assisted by a liberal zone from Hunter Wendelstadt. Both worked into the 6th inning and exited with only one run on the board. The difference was in what happened after they left in a decisive 6th inning as the Jays benefited from a combination of poor defensive play, good fortune, and good hitting to put up five runs.

Ross Stripling put up zeroes in the early going, posting a clean first inning and working around a hard lead-off single in the second by Ji-Man Choi. That said, he did not appear particularly locked in, giving up some hard contact including a ball lined right to Biggio at second and falling into a few three-ball counts before working out of them (Joey Wendle bailing him out of one with a pair of awful swings on high sliders).

The third inning was stronger, with a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a routine groundout for another clean inning. But, alas, that didn’t carry over the fourth inning, as Manuel Margot just enough of a 2-1 belt-high fastball over the inside turn corner to turn on it and sneak a foot over the fence in left-center. Stripling again couldn’t retire Choi in issuing a walk following a strikeout but worked out with no further damage.

Stripling put up another zero in the 5th inning, getting two quick outs before walking Kevin Kiermayer. He got another two quick outs on three pitches in the 6th before once again walking his nemesis Choi with two out in the 6th to end his afternoon at 97 pitches. Overall, it was a quality outing of 5.2 innings, allowing one run on 2 hits, with 3 walks against 5 strikeouts. The added pitches from those three walks prevented him from finishing the 6th and maybe even a 7th inning if there was one blemish. But a good outing nonetheless.

We got good work from Adam Cimber (3 outs) and Tim Mayza (4 outs).

Jordan Romano pitched the ninth, mostly to get some work. He walked the first two batters he faced and then had a ground ball hitting the bag at second and defected away from Semien, costing Jordan two earned. But Jordan held the line there. Glad he got the wildness out of the way in a blowout. If he came into a close game and pitched like that, we would have been distraught.

Meanwhile, George Springer for the second straight game, opened the scoring with a solo home run, turning around a first pitch 97 MPH fastball low but center-cut over the plate and blasting it 403 feet over the wall in left-center to lead off the second.

Unfortunately, the Jays could not capitalize on defensive miscues by the Rays to put up a crooked number. Teoscar Hernandez reached on a pop-up that a shifted Brandon Lowe couldn’t come up with, and the failure to turn two on a ground ball to third that could have erased the bonus baserunner had it been handled cleanly. Santiago Espinal punched a single to bring a runner to third, but that’s as close as they got despite a shaky throw from Lowe to retire the side.

That allowed McClanahan to settle in and stymie the potent Jays lineup the second time through. Bo Bichette was the lone man to reach in the third and fourth innings on a walk, harmless against four strikeouts and a couple of feckless balls in play. That continued against the bottom of the order in the 5th, though Reese McGuire almost got into one with a sharp warning track fly out to left. It continued through the top of the order.

Until Vladimir Guerrero turned the tide with one out in the 6th, rifling an absolute missile of a 1-0 fastball at 117 MPH into the left-center gap for a double. A walk to Springer spelled the end for McClanahan in favour of Matt Wisler, but far from quelling the quiescent rally, the floodgates were about to open.

Teoscar beat out an infield single to load the bases, and Gurriel tapped a ground ball to third. Wendle tried to cut down the go-ahead run at 1st but made a bad throw that Mike Zunino couldn’t corral, allowing Vlad to score. Cavan Biggio followed that with a bloop down the left-field line that fell in for a two-run single and a 4-1 lead. To this point, the Jays had been more fortunate than anything, but Espinal changed that by drilling a 1-2 slider over the fence for a two-run shot and 6-1 lead.

We only had six hits. Espinal had two of them.

Jays of the Day: Stripling (.218 WPA), and Springer (.100). And let’s give one to Espinal for his first major league home run. A beautiful swing.

Suckage: No one had the number. Reese had the low mark at -.077 for an 0 for 3. A minor rant: In our five-run sixth, Reese was up with two outs, and he showed bunt with one strike, taking the pitch down the middle and then showed bunt again, taking strike three. It was a weird moment. Two outs, I don’t want a bunt hit. Swing hard, and try to get into scoring position, especially as Wisler hadn’t looked good. If Espinal can take him deep, swing the bat. But then, up by five, so it didn’t matter.

Tomorrow, the Jays will go for the sweep at 1:05 ET with Robbie Ray on the mound against the notorious TBD.

We had 269 comments in the game thread. I missed the first few innings, off doing ‘community day’ with my son, but I brought the scoring. EMK19 led us to victory.

# Commenter # Comments
1 EMK19 57
2 Tom Dakers 43
3 fishedin 24
4 yyzcalifornia 21
5 Alan F. 18
6 gabrielsyme 18
7 Rhinos 17
8 Drinkin' Wit' Terrell Farley 12
9 J-74 11
10 FlipDown Shades 11
11 FrankDrakman 10