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Bats Show Up Late but Loud, Jays Win 7-2

MLB: Game Two-Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Jays refuse to do it the easy way in this series. The offence again didn’t show up until late, this time the seventh inning, although at least when they arrived this time they did enough to give a bit of margin for error. Alek Manoah, dealing with some kind of stomach flu since last night, was visibly not himself but battled through a very good start anyway, and the bullpen kept it dramatic but got it done.

Alek Manoah delivered a tremendously gutsy performance. He was clearly in rough shape, sitting on the bench in the dugout between innings with a towel on his head looking like it was about all he could manage to keep himself upright. On the mound, though, he stayed strong and kept his team in the game. Although his fastball velocity was down a little, flashing some 91s and topping out at 95 compared to his usual 92-97, he was able to locate all three pitches and mostly keep the Rays’ hitters off him. He battled through 6.2 innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out five. He made one serious mistake, hanging a slider to Ji Man Choi in the third that Choi took into the second deck to right field, and in the seventh Jonathan Aranda was able to extend his arms and reach a changeup on the outside corner that he just snuck over the left field wall. Those two solo home runs were the only runs the Rays managed off him. It’s an ace’s job to compete and keep his team close even on nights when he isn’t at his best, and that’s what Manoah was able to do.

Anthony Bass relieved him, getting Randy Arozarena to ground out to keep it 2-1 heading into the seventh inning stretch.

Unfortunately, the offence couldn’t match Manoah’s heroics. The hitters never got any kind of a handle on Yonny Chirinos. He ran through four innings in just 42 pitches, only recording two strikeouts but also only allowing three hits. The nadir came in the fourth, when Bo Bichette snuck a grounder just over the corner of the third base bag for a lead-off double, but the other guys weren’t able to even come close to getting him home. Chirinos, who was making his second appearance since 2020 due to injuries, was lifted after opening the fifth by hitting Matt Chapman. Garrett Clevinger took over and delivered more of the same, getting a pop out, a line out and a ground out to get out of the inning.

In the sixth, Vladimir Guerrero jr lead off with a grounder smoked over the third base bag and into the corner. It kicked off the wall and right to the left fielder Peralta, who was almost able to gun Vlad down sliding into second. The throw was just off line, though, and he made it in safely. Bichette moved him over to third with a ground out to second, prompting Kevin Cash to go back to his bullpen, pulling Clevinger in favour of Jalen Beeks. Alejandro Kirk did his job, dribbling a swinging bunt up the first base line and scoring Vlad, tying it at one.

The Jays bats came to life in the bottom of the seventh facing new reliever Colin Poche. Santiago Espinal, pinch hitting for Cavan Biggio, lead it off by drawing a walk. Matt Chapman struck out swinging, but Poche’s command wavered facing Danny Jansen (pinch hitting for Raimel Tapia). He walked Jansen and threw two wild pitches in the process, allowing Espinal to move to third. Jansen was subbed for pinch runner Bradley Zimmer, who came in to score on the Jays’ third double over the third base bag of the game, this one by Whit Merrifield hitting for Jackie Bradley jr. (there was a lot of pinching going on). That set the table for George Springer, who has looked absolutely terrible lately, but looked just fine here. Poche hung a breaking ball, and Springer didn’t miss it, taking it over the left field wall for his 20th home run of the season but his first in more than 70 PAs. That was it for Poche. Keving Herget, making his major league debut, was able to pop Vlad and Bo up to end the inning, but the brief offensive explosion was enough to put Toronto up 5-2.

Adam Cimber came out to try to hold that lead in the eighth. He allowed a soft line single to Harold Ramirez, and a ground ball single to Isaac Paredes that moved Ramirez to third around two ground outs. He wasn’t quite sharp, running deep counts, and John Schneider decided to play it safe with the unexpected lead, going to Jordan Romano to attempt the four out save. He got the first one on a grounder to short from Randy Arozarena, preserving the three run lead.

Herget stayed in for the bottom of the eighth. Alejandro Kirk lead off with an infield single and scored on a Teoscar Hernandez line double, flashing the elite speed that is his calling card. Espinal flied out to the track in centre field, advancing Hernandez to third, and Chapman cashed him in with a sac fly of his own, making it 7-2.

With the lead expanded to 5 and Romano having thrown just three pitches, Schneider decided to stash him for tomorrow and allow Zach Pop to mop it up in the ninth. He struggled with his command, walking Francisco Mejia and getting into deep counts with every hitter even with the benefit of a pretty loose zone, but he got the job done.

Jays of the Evening: Manoah didn’t have the number, but I’m giving him one regardless, he did more than could reasonably have been asked of him in the circumstances. Espinal (0.183) and Merrifield (0.316) got there.

Not so Much: Nobody qualifies

Ross Stripling (7-4, 3.03) will square off with Drew Rasmussen (10-4, 2.57) with a chance to win the biggest series of the year until these teams play again next week. Shane McClanahan looms on Thursday, so a win tomorrow would really help. That will get going at 7:07pm ET.