Game Threat: Welcome to the House of Horrors, Blue Jays (76-58) vs Rays (57-76)

You’d think that playing a team sitting in last place with a record 20 games below 500 while you’re in the heat of a September playoff race would be some kind of godsend. But that’s never the case with the Tampa Bay Rays, who, while terrible, are completely capable of being inexplicably and frustratingly good, especially when you have to face them in the abandoned Costco covered with light green carpet that they call a stadium. 

Yesterday

The Blue Jays have had a hell of a time playing at Tropicana Field in the past, and this season, they’ve struggled mightily with the Rays in general. They have the edge in their season series against both Baltimore and Boston, who they’re fighting with for the American League East, and they’ve pounded the Yankees all season, yet after last night, the Rays have won eight of 14 games against Toronto this year. 

But like I said, when you’re playing the basement dwelling Rays, especially in the House of Horrors, it’s never as easy of a win as it should be. They slap singles, work counts, steal bases, bunt, and do all that shit that makes small ball truthers on the internet crawl out of their holes to suggest that the Jays are doomed for oblivion because they aren’t fundamentally sound. And to be fair, yesterday, they weren’t! 

They didn’t hit well, managing just two runs off of Alex Cobb, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years, and combined for 12 strikeouts as a team. They didn’t pitch particularly well, as Marcus Stroman allowed a couple of cheap runs in the second and third innings before leaving a meatball in the middle of the plate for Logan Morrison to crush a two-run bomb. Fransisco Liriano was terrible in his first relief appearance since 2012, too, allowing two runs without recording an out. 

And worst of all, they didn’t field well. In the third, Devon Travis messed up what should have been a double play ball, allowing the Rays to grab an unearned run off of a couple groundouts. And with Liriano pitching, Josh Donaldson made an error at third that immediately came around to score on a triple. 

Maybe it was the off day. Maybe it was the travel. Maybe it’s hard to take the Rays seriously because it’s hard to name more than, like, seven players on their roster. Maybe it’s the fact their stadium feels like a building slowly sinking into a swamp. I don’t know what it is, I can’t explain it, but fuck, I hate watching the Jays face the Rays, and hell, I’m sure the players hate it too. 

News and Scuttlebutt 

The Blue Jays signed outfielder and World Series Champions (yes, in 2013 with the Boston Red Sox!) to a minor league contract, and since it came back on August 31, he can, in fact, play on their playoff roster if they need him to. Berry hasn’t been a regular since 2012 when he stole 21 bases without being thrown out with the Detroit Tigers. 

This year, he has a .345 on base percentage and 35 stolen bases in Triple-A with the Salt Lake Bees and Buffalo Bisons. When Buffalo’s season comes to an end on Monday, there’s a pretty decent chance Berry will join the Jays, along with Bo Schultz and Aaron Loup.

Here’s an interesting article from Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star, who talked to George Poulis and Mike Frostad, the team’s trainers, about the difficulties of the 162-game grind that Major League players go through, and how especially difficult it gets at this time of year (which is something to remember when we whine about losing games to the Rays and their roster of young players oozing with energy who are looking to prove themselves in the bigs). 

Today

Blue Jays: Jose Bautista RF, Josh Donaldson 3B, Edwin Encarnacion 1B, Russell Martin DH, Troy Tulowitzki SS, Melvin Upton LF, Dioner Navarro C, Kevin Pillar CF, Devon Travis 2B

Marco Estrada: 8-6, 3.37 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 1.081 WHIP, 6.6 H9, 3.1 BB9, 8.2 SO9

Rays: Logan Forsythe 2B, Kevin Kiermaier CF, Evan Longoria 3B, Brad Miller 1B, Matt Duffy SS, Logon Morrison DH, Nick Franklin RF, Corey Dickerson LF, Bobby Wilson C

Blake Snell 4-7, 3.56 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.654 WHIP, 9.6 H9, 5.3 BB9, 9.5 SO9

Reunited at last! For the first time since spinning that dazzling gem in Game 5 of the ALCS, Marco Estrada will toss the ball to his good pal Dioner Navarro. Though he had a nice start earlier this week in Baltimore, Marco hasn’t been putting the ACE in ACEstrada recently, as he didn’t to go more than five innings in any of his previous three starts. So hopefully getting Dinner Time behind the plate can give him that psychological boost everybody was yammering on about back when Navarro walked as a free agent last winter even though he’s had a performance worthy of an All-Star nod this season with Russell Martin catching for him

Pitching for Tampa Bay will be Blake Snell, the former first round pick who was having a very nice start to his Major League career before being curb stomped by the Jays back in August when they tagged him for five runs, only two earned, though, on five hits and four walks over just one-and-two-thirds innings. Since then, he hasn’t gotten out of the fifth inning of a start, and has averaged nearly two baserunners per inning. So this could be really good! But it’s the Rays! In the house of horrors! So fuck! I don’t know! Goddamit, just get this series over with and get the hell out of there, please!