The Rays, man. There’s a reason they were the No. 1 team in the American League. Tampa takes Game 1 by a score of 3-1, meaning the Jays are suddenly facing elimination on Wednesday.
Things worth mentioning…
- The pitching was the big story in today’s game, so I’ll start with that. Rather than using their ace, Hyun Jin Ryu in Game 1, the Jays opted to roll with Matt Shoemaker. The plan had to do with the fact Shoe had plenty of success against the Rays in his career and Ryu is better on an extra day of rest. The Shoemaker part of the plan worked to perfection as the veteran was amazing through three innings, scattering just a couple of hits. But that was the end of the line for Shoemaker as the Jays opted to bring in Robbie Ray. How did you feel about that, Shoe?
- Not great! Ray came in and promptly allowed Randy Arozarena to smack a triple, causing concern that we were in store for a Ray meltdown. Arozarena would end up scoring on a wild pitch (one that Danny Jansen probably should have come up with) which gave the Rays a 1-0 lead. But that was the only damage Ray gave up. He would end up tossing three innings, allowing that one run on one hit and one walk while striking out five. So, all told, the Shoe/Ray piggyback worked to perfection, as the Jays got themselves six innings of one-run ball.
- Ironically, it was in the seventh inning that the Jays’ pitching faltered. A.J. Cole came in and got the first out, but then walked Joey Wendle and allowed a two-run bomb to Manuel Margot, giving Tampa a 3-0 lead.
- This Cole inning, for me, is an example of why the Jays had a quick leash with Shoemaker. The argument was that Shoe was rolling so he could five four or even five and then you go to Ray to toss his three and you don’t need to worry about the middle guys like Cole coming in. But Cole’s inning shows just how quickly things can go sideways when facing a quick-strike team like the Rays with power up and down their lineup. Earlier this season, Shoe had an outing against Tampa where he was basically perfect through three, and then the Rays struck in the fourth inning for three runs. The goal was to avoid him going through the order for a second time, and, as good as he was pitching, there’s no saying he would have been able to get the Rays’ big bats out a second time. Things happen fast.
- So, that’s that. The pitching, save for Cole’s homer, was fantastic. Unfortunately, the bats simply couldn’t solve Blake Snell. The former Cy Young winner went five-and-two-thirds, allowing just one hit (a single to Alejandro Kirk) and two walks while striking out nine. It looked like Snell could keep going, but Kevin Cash opted to take him out rather than letting him face the Jays for a third time.
- The Blue Jays had a few chances to score off of Tampa’s bullpen. In the seventh, Vlad Jr. got hit by a pitch and Lourdes Gurriel singled, putting runners on first and second for Teoscar Hernandez. Hernandez would pop out and then Joe Panik smacked what looked like a single right up the middle at Willy Adames, who was positioned perfectly to get the out.
- In the eighth, Rowdy Tellez hit a pinch-hit single in his first at-bat since going on the Injured List, Cavan Biggio doubled, and then Bo Bichette drove Rowdy in with a sac fly. Randal Grichuk came up next and drilled a ball 105 miles-per-hour right at Willy Adames. And then, in the ninth, Lourdes Gurriel doubled, but nobody could drive him in.
- It was incredibly frustrating because those two balls hit by Panik and Grichuk looked like run-scoring knocks, by fucking Adames was just right there to snag them. The Rays, man. That’s just what they do.