Rays 1 at Blue Jays 5
For once it nice to see a soft-tossing starter roll through a lineup in a Jays-Rays game like a hot knife through butter and not have it be at the Jays expense. Ross Stripling was largely dominant working into the 7th, allowing the Jays to build an early lead they were able to ride to a 5-1 win despite flirting with danger in the late innings.
Stripling was strong from the start, getting two popouts and a routine flyout in a quick nine pitch first inning. He struck out Harold Ramirez to start the 2nd inning, before Ji-Man Choi was the first to make decent contact sending a ball ton the warning track on a well struck fly out to deep centre. Manuel Margot finally broke the ice squaring up a line drive for a hustle double, but Stripling got another strikeout to end the inning.
Stripling kept putting up zeroes, pretty cleanly though giving up well struck fly balls to end the 3rd and 4th innings, working around a two out walk in the former. The Rays got to him for more solid contact in the 5th, with a two out double and then a slicing line drive to the corner in right that Jackie Bradley Jr. snared.
Stripling motored through the 6th with two bounce outs and a strikeout, and with a very manageable pitch count under 85 worked into the 7th. Harold Ramirez touched up his first pitch, yanking it over the fence to break the shutout and after a groundout his evening was done. A very good final line of 6.1 innings, 3 hits and the lone free pass against 4 strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the Jays had been building a nice cushion over the first half of the game. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. staked them to an early lead, finally getting his 100th home run to became the third youngest player to the mark in American League history. It wasn’t his most impressive, a high towering shot that just cleared the wall in left-centre (the Rays hit numerous better struck balls on the night for outs), but it was enough to break his drought.
They extended that tenuous lead in the 3rd, loading the bases with none out on a pair of singles from Santiago Espinal and Bradley, following by George Springer drawing a free pass. Vladdy bounced a weak ground ball that was going to a run in regardless, narrowing beating out a double play. Not that it really mattered, as Bo Bichette continued to torch everything with a line drive smashed the other way.
The jays continued this usually foreign concept of tacking on runs in the 4th, with Danny Jansen lining a sharp leadoff double down the left field line (shockingly, just his third of the year). He advanced on a groundout, scoring on an infield single from Espinal.
They liked the whole tack on thing so much they tried it again for good measure in the 6th in very similar fashion. This time there were two outs when Jansen lined another sharp line drive double the line, scoring as Raimel Tapia sent the next pitch through the infield up the middle. Espinal followed with another infield single as the Rays threw the ball around the infield, but was thrown out trying to steal to end the rally and prevent any chance of a crooked number.
So, the bullpen needed to get 8 outs, and it was...a struggle. Adam Cimber followed Stripling, immediately yielding a hard single. he got what should or at least could have been a double play ground ball, but Espinal completely forgot how many outs there were with a slow lob over to first. The exactly type of gaffe that has opened many a floodgate for the Rays. That looked like a distinct possibility after a walk followed, but matt Chapman corralled a decently struck ground ball for a forceout.
Yimi Garcia came in to face the top of the order in the 8th, immediately getting himself into trouble as Yandy Diaz and Wander Diaz both absolutely smoked line drive singles in front of the heart of the order. To his credit, Garcia just reached back for the old number #1, blowing away Randy Arozarena, Ramirez and Choi on fastballs to stifle the budding trouble.
Neither was the 9th easy for Trevor Richards, with two hard drives to deep centre after an infield single, but that Bradley Zimmer was able to run down to end the game.
In short, if a few things had gone a little differently—the way they tend to when the Jays face the Rays—this could have been a very different game. But Rays magic seems to be in short supply at least for the moment.
Jays of the Day: Stripling (+0.247 WPA) and Vladdy (+0.101) are the only by the numbers due to jumping out the early lead and the distributed nature of the attack. Adding a couple others, Jansen’s (+0.019) two doubles were important and Bichette (+0.034) had two more hard line drives, the former adding a critical tack on run.
Suckage: None, but the bonehead of the day does to Espinal (+0.056) for what could have opened the door for the Rays. Though he did have a perfect 3-for-3 night at the plate, albeit none of it particularly impressive contact.
Having secured the series, the Jays will look to give themselves some real breathing room in the wild card tomorrow in a 3:05 EDT getaway matinee that features what should be a dandy pitching matchup between Shane McClanahan and Kevin Gausman.