That was a fun one. Great defence throughout, good hitting, and an inside the park home run! The Jays win the series and finish their final road trip 4-2, which is impressive considering their opposition and their struggles with divisional opponents this year.
The Jays found themselves behind early. They went in order in the top of the first, and in the home half the Rays strung together four singles to plate two. Kikuchi did record three Ks, but the guys who didn’t whiff were hitting it well.
The second looked like more of the same, with Taj Bradley retiring the first two batters. He briefly lost the plate, though, waking Alejandro Kirk on four pitches, and that sparked a rally. Daulton Varsho doubled and Whit Merrifield singled to tie it at two. Kevin Kiermaier added a single of his own to bring up George Springer. Springer lofted a high fly ball just over a leaping Manuel Margot’s glove and off angled pane in the left-centre field wall, kicking it sideways and allowing Springer to come all the way around to score an inside the park home run, putting Toronto up 5-2.
The sides went down in order in the bottom of the second and top of the third. The Rays threatened in the bottom of the third, but Springer had more heroics up his sleeve. First he threw Curtis Mead out at second on what could have been a double off the top of the wall. Next, he made an amazing diving catch on a sinking Isaac Paredes liner and got the throw into the plate to hold Harold Ramirez at third. He was a bit shaken up after winding himself landing hard on the green industrial carpet over concrete that the Trop calls turf, but stayed in the game.
The Rays closed the gap in the fourth. Josh Lowe doubled, and Taylor Walls singled him home, making it 5-3. A hit by Osleivis Basabe put men on first and second, but Kirk picked Basabe off to end the inning and preserve the two run lead. Four innings was the limit for Kikuchi. He struck out seven, but was getting hit pretty hard and was probably lucky to give up only three runs on nine hits.
Bradley turned in another 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, making it ten Blue Jays retired in a row. Trevor Richards worked around a walk to keep Tampa scoreless in the bottom half.
Vladimir Guerrero jr. broke Bradley’s perfect streak emphatically, leading off the sixth by launching his 25th home run 427 feet to dead centre, returning the lead to three. Matt Chapman added a walk and Kirk a single, but the Jays were unable to further extend their lead. Richards held again, with the help of a nice grab by Cavan Biggio on a sharp Walls grounder that could have gone into the right field corner for a double.
Yimi Garcia came in for the bottom of the seventh with the score still 6-3. He gave up a two run homer to Isaac Paredes to bring Tampa within one. It was his fifth time giving up runs in ten September appearances. At some point he’ll have to be moved down the bullpen hierarchy, he’s not trustworthy in high leverage.
Colin Poche relieved Bradley in the eighth. In spite of giving up six runs, Bradley was surprisingly efficient and got through seven in only 92 pitches. Chapman lined a single, and Daulton Varsho hit a two out triple over the right fielder’s head to score Toronto’s seventh run. Erik Swanson struggled a bit, giving up a single and a walk, but got out of the jam to preserve the two run lead.
Bo Bichette tacked on an insurance run in the ninth, taking Erasmo Ramirez deep for his 20th of the season. Vlad copied him, shooting a laser beam into the left field bleachers for his first multi-homer game of the season.
With Jordan Romano unavailable after yesterday’s struggles, Jordan Hicks got the call to close it out. With some more impressive defence, this time on a grounder fielded in the hole by Bichette and a dribbler in front of the plate handled by Kirk, he shut the Rays down.
Jays of the Day: Richards (0.112), Springer (0.229), Varsho (0.137), Merrifield (0.155), and Vlad somehow didn’t have the number but two bombs get you a nod.
Suckage: Kikuchi (-0.117), Garcia (-0.129)
They Jays head home to finish the regular season at the Rogers centre. Tomorrow is an off day, but the Yankees come to town on Tuesday for a three game set. Game one goes at 7:07pm ET. Starters aren’t announced yet, although it’s Kevin Gausman’s (129, 3.29) turn.