That one really hurt. The Jays battled back from a rare bad start, taking the lead and playing really well, but Jordan Romano had a rare bad outing battling a blister and they weren’t able to hang on.
The Jays got men on in each of the six innings that Zack Littell pitched, but were unable to push any across the plate until he left the game. It started with a Vladimir Guerrero jr. single in the first. Davis Schneider was hit in the second and advanced to third on a Kevin Kiermaier line double into the right field corner, but Tyler Hineman grounded out to end the inning. The third was almost identical. Vlad worked a two out walk and Cavan Biggio hit a ground rule double off the aquarium in centre field (startling a devil ray), and this time they loaded them when Littel hit Matt Chapman, but Daulton Varsho made a terrible swing decision on the first pitch he saw and grounded to first. Heineman would line a single in the fourth, and Bo Bichette added one of his own in the fifth.
Finally, in the sixth, Kevin Kiermaier legged out an infield single with two outs and Heineman struck out but made it safely into first on a passed ball. Those two bits of hustle knocked Littell out of the game and they took off. Geogre Springer lined a double into the left field gap off reliever Shawn Armstrong to plate two, Bo lined a single to right, Vlad lofted a broken bat single over a leaping Paredes to cash Springer, and Biggio capped the rally with his second double of the game to bring Bo home and make it 5-4. Chapman battled Armstrong, but eventually grounded out before the Jays could tie it.
They had another chance in the seventh. Facing Colin Poche, Whit Merrifield (hitting for Varsho) grounded to Walls at short, who airmailed his throw into the dugout to send Merrifield to second. Schneider advanced him to third on a fly to centre. Kiermaier hit a fly down the left field line and Merrified decided to try Harold Ramirez’ arm, but it was way too shallow and Ramirez threw a strike to get him at the plate.
Santiago Espinal was brought in to hit for Heineman to lead off the eighth, causing the Rays to move to the righty Andrew Kitteridge. I have to say, going to Espy for offensive purposes seemed like an odd move, but he clubbed tue first pitch into the left field corner for a double. That’s why John Schneider makes the big bucks I guess. Speedster Cam Eden came in to run. Springer brought him to third with a ground out. Kittridge struck Bichette out. The Rays called on closer Pete Fairbanks to face Guerrero, which proved to be a mistake as he couldn’t find the plate. Eden got his big chance when the 2-0 pitch skipped away from Bethancourt and easily scored to tie the game at 5. Guerrero walked and so did Biggio, followed by Chapman taking 99 off the elbow to load the bases the hard way. Merrifield walked on four pitches to force in the go ahead run. Too late, Kevin Cash made the move to bring in Chris Devenski, who did strike Schneider out to end the inning. Kitteridge came back out and retired the side in order in the ninth.
Hyun Jin Ryu’s command was not sharp this afternoon, and it was a reminder that when he doesn’t have that he doesn’t have much of anything. Yandy Diaz lead off the game with a homer, and after a pair of walks, Josh Lowe followed with one of his own, putting the Jays in a 4-0 hole eary.
He did manage to stabilize things for the next two innings, although he did hit Diaz with a curve that bounced. He gave up a solo homer to lead off the fourth to Christian Bethancourt.
All these struggles racked up a lot of pitches. He attempted to pitch the fifth, but walked Isaac Paredes and then gave up a one out hit to Lowe, running his pitch count to 89 and forcing John Schneider to pull the plug. He went 4.1 innings and was lucky to give up only five runs on seven hits, three walks and a hit batter while striking out two.
Trevor Richards came in for mop up duty. He threw a wild pitch to advance the runners, but escaped with the help of a nice connection between Chapman and Vlad on a Bethancourt ground out.
With the Jays’ big sixth, it became a tight game. Chad Green got the call to handle the bottom half of the inning. He worked around a seeing eye ground ball single by Diaz, picking up a couple of Ks in a scoreless inning. He came back and got the first two batters in the eighth before hitting 30 pitches and being pulled. It was an excellent outing for a guy who, still-elevated ERA aside, is showing why the Jays were able to offer such an unusual contract to land him. Genesis Cabrera took over and blew the lefty Lowe away.
Yimi Garcia preserved the newly acquired lead in the eighth with a couple of Ks and the help of a diving grab by Merrifield to rob Margot of a double.
Jordan Romano was battling what looked like a blister or a split fingernail. He gave up a leadoff double to Diaz, who was lifted for pinch runner Raimel Tapia. Ramirez followed with a ground ball single that moved Tapia to third, and Mead lined one to left to tie it. Romano struck out the next batter, and it looked like he’d kept the game alive by getting Caminero to hit into a double play, but on replay he beat tue throw. That brought up Lowe, who lined a single to left to walk it off.
Jays of the Day: Garcia (0.133), Vlad (0.111), Biggio (0.176), Merrified (0.376), Espinal (0.151), Eden (0.208)
Suckage: Ryu (-0.312), Romano (-0.816), Bo (-0.133), Schneider (-0.101), Kiermaier (-0.176)
We’ll wrap things up in Tampa tomorrow afternoon. Yusei Kikuchi (10-6, 3.74) will look to end the final road trip of the regular season on a high note, facing off against Taj Bradley (5-7, 5.36). First pitch is 1:10pm ET.