Jays 7 at Rays 1
Pitching, defence and the three run run homer. Famously, that was Earl Weaver’s maxim for how to win baseball games, and putting together two of that trinity was largely how the Blue Jays rebounded to earn a series split in Tampa. Yesterday it was the pitching part from Alek Manoah and a three run home run from Whit Merrifield (if not spectacular defensive work).
Today there was no three run home run, but instead three home runs to build a lead (and then Teoscar Hernandez sort of busted this narrative lede with a fourth, but I’m going to lean into it nonetheless) and some strong glovework if not spectacular pitching to earn a pullaway win over the Rays and a series split that keeps them the same two games clear in the Wild Card standings they were coming in.
Shane McClanahan was not at his sharpest, falling behind frequently (seven 2-0 counts). That allowed the Jays to hunt pitches and they were able to capitalize when he made some made some mistakes. They weren’t able to do anything after George Springer led off the game with a single, but Alejandro Kirk got to him leading off the second.
McClanahan escaped with no further damage, but the Jays got to him again to extend their lead starting the 3rd inning. Raimel Tapia chopped a single leading off, turning the order back over to Springer. He went with a slider that caught the plate, driving the ball the other way over the fence for the 3-0 as lead. Bo Bichette followed with a single, but as in the first when Bichette followed Springer, an untimely double play stifled anything further.
That was it until Springer came back up a third time, when he absolutely destroyed a ball so thoroughly to dead centre that the camera more or less completely missed it and I’m still not sure exactly where it landed:
For his part, Ross Stripling was not close to his sharpest either, and while he turned in a workmanlike effort of, he was quite fortunate to allow just one run given he yielded quite a bit of hard contact. it was critical that he didn’t issue any free passes, which might have tipped a tenuous line he walked in posting 5 innings, 6 hits with 3 strikeouts.
Stripling was in trouble in the first, giving up a leadoff single before a missed call on a Wander Franco ground ball right over third base was ruled foul that Chapman otherwise made a nice play on. Some karmic balance followed however as Franco ripped a shot to the right centre gap that would normally go for extra bases, but Teoscar Hernandez was shaded over and grabbed it relatively easily. Harold Ramirez singled after driving a long shot just foul, but Stripling got out with no damage on a weak comebacker to the mound.
Stripling worked an easy second inning before the Rays roughed him up more in the 3rd. Taylor Walls led off with a double off the wall in left-centre, moving to third on a groundout and scoring on a sac fly. With two out, the Rays tried to string together more, with a couple line drive singles. Isaac Paredes added more hard contact, but Matt Chapman robbed him to end the inning.
Stripling worked through the next two more easily, a two out double smashed by Randy Arozarena aside, but was done after 76 pitches in favour of Zach Pop. Even with the bullpen a little depleted from soaking up innings early this week, it seemed like the right call given it was close and how hard he was being hit. Pop didn’t have thethe easiest inning, but after allowing a hard leadoff single he retired the next three batters in order. Adam Cimber followed with an easy clean 7th inning, two strikeouts and a ground out, and Trevor Richards likewise in the 8th.
The bats had gone pretty quiet after the Springer home run in the 4th, but stirred in a big way in the 8th. After Chapman walked with one out, Teoscar hit a second ball that was utterly destroyed, according to Statcast even further than Springer’s at 464 ft (vs. 439):
Having extended the lead to beyond where a disasterous outing would immediately jeopardize it, Yusei Kikuchi came for the 9th to finish things. It featured the usual messiness with a couple free passes, but he avoided both any damage on the scoreboard and also being decapitated on a shot right back up the middle by Christian Bethancourt.
Jays of the Day: Springer (+.270 WPA) and Stripling (+.155); the former deserved for being a one man wrecking crew, the latter not so much. Kirk’s (+.99) only hit gave the Jays the lead and while Teoscar (+.01) didn’t come close to the number, he easily merits one as well for putting the game to bed in style (and a decent early snag)
Suckage: None, except maybe the Tropicana camera operators who failed to well track two of the more majestic home runs you’ll ever see.
Tomorrow, the Jays are in New York to open a three game series that consequential mostly for positioning at 7:05 EDT. MLB’s probables page lists TBD on both sides, but it’s Kevin Gausman’s turn in the rotation.