Playing the Rays has seldom been fun for the Blue Jays through the years. Although this particular series has felt a bit different due to the amount of good vibes surrounding the wins, the Rays made sure to remind the Blue Jays that facing them is not always easy.
Tampa Bay roughed up Kevin Gausman early, and Shane McClanahan impressed in his return from the IL as the Rays defeated Toronto 11-0 on Thursday afternoon. The Blue Jays still won the series, and because of this, own a 1.5 game lead over the Rays in the AL East and Wild Card standings.
The Gausman-McClanahan matchup was certainly looking to be quite the duel, with both pitchers ranking in the Top 11 in terms of ERA in the American League. Toronto was able to put baserunners on against McClanahan early, but they were unable to take advantage. On the other side, bringing baserunners into score is something the Rays do very well, and they made their opportunities count.
Tampa Bay struck first in the 2nd inning as Rene Pinto singled in David Peralta with one out. Gausman got Jose Siri to foul out, with only Yandy Diaz standing in Gausman’s way of getting out of the inning. Unfortunately, Diaz took a 1-1 splitter deep into the left field seats to give Tampa Bay a 4-0 lead. The score mixed in with McClanahan on the mound was not a good recipe for the Blue Jays, especially since they had several stretches in this series where the bats were cold.
Gausman rebounded to retire 13 of his next 14 batters until Isaac Paredes hit his 19th home run of the season in the 7th inning. All told, Gausman threw seven innings, allowing six hits, five runs, one walk, and seven strikeouts.
The real unfortunate thing was the ninth inning, in which Trevor Richards and David Phelps combined to allow six runs and throw 47 pitches. Using Phelps with another big series coming up was probably not in the plans for John Schneider, as there were even conversations about having Bradley Zimmer come in to get a couple outs.
As I mentioned earlier, Shane McClanahan was great. He was on a pitch count, but his five innings appeared as if he hadn’t skipped a beat, only allowing three hits and striking out five. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette each singled with one out in the first inning, but Toronto was unable to capitalize. For the game, the Jays were 1-for-6 with RISP, and they left seven runners on base. Guerrero has surprisingly hit a nine-game hit streak, despite the slump he has been in recently.
Despite the loss, the Jays pitching staff deserves a pat on the back for their outings in this series. Counting Mitch White as a starter, all five starters went at least six innings in a great effort to keep the bullpen from being overworked in a 5-game series. In the first four games, Tampa Bay had combined to score only 8 runs. This could very well be a playoff matchup, so it was refreshing to see almost all of the Blue Jays starters post great results.
Toronto welcomes the Trash Birds back into town, as they start a three-game series with Baltimore tomorrow evening. Schneider said the Jays will do a bullpen game, so hopefully the use of Richards and Phelps from the ninth inning today doesn’t come back to hurt them.