The view from Deep Left Field on the Blue Jays’ 6-3 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday:
It was striking to see the Tampa Bay Rays open the door to a big Blue Jays inning on Friday night with poor defensive play, and it was even more of a shock to see it happen again Saturday.
The Rays, who have long been a thorn in the Jays’ collective side by pitching well and minimizing mistakes on defence, shot themselves in the foot again, and the Jays put the game away with a five-run rally in the sixth inning.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got it started by murdalizing a Shane McClanahan fastball. It came in at 99 miles per hour and left Guerrero’s bat at 117.3, finding the gap for a one-out double.
Two batters later, the bases were loaded with one out and McClanahan had been replaced by Matt Wisler. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a ground ball to third and the sure-handed Joey Wendle gloved it cleanly but then fired an unnecessarily rushed throw home that catcher Mike Zunino couldn’t handle.
Gurriel, for some reason, had hesitated out of the box, so had Wendle made an accurate throw to the plate, Zunino would have been able to double him up at first base and the inning would have been over. Instead, the ball skipped past the Rays’ catcher, the go-ahead run scored and the inning continued. With the door opened a crack, the Jays proceeded to bust it down and score four more runs to open up a 6-1 lead.
With poor defence having led to four- and five-run innings in consecutive games, it’s not hard to see why the Rays, division leaders as recently as a week ago, have now lost 12 of their last 16 and are in a position to be swept by a team they have dominated over the years.
- A shutdown role: With a runner on and two out in the top of the sixth inning, and the game tied 1-1, Jays manager Charlie Montoyo went to the mound to get starter Ross Stripling, who had been brilliant, and brought in his newest toy, reliever Adam Cimber, acquired from Miami in a trade earlier in the week.
Cimber, a sidearmer, has made a career of carving up right-handed hitters and keeping the ball in the park, so the choice to bring him in to face the power bat of Randy Arozarena with the game on the line was a natural fit. The new Jay hasn’t allowed a home run yet this season, and has only given up 0.6 homers per nine innings over his four years in the big leagues with Cleveland, Miami and Toronto.
Cimber got ahead of Arozarena with sinkers, then got him to hit a fly ball to left on a frisbee slider to end the inning. The Blue Jays’ five-run explosion in the bottom of the frame got the 30-year-old his first win with his new club in his second appearance.
- Powering up: The Jays went into Saturday’s game with 121 home runs as a team, tied for the major-league lead with the surprising San Francisco Giants, and broke the tie in the second inning when George Springer clubbed the first pitch he saw over the left-field wall.
Fourteen different Blue Jays had gone deep entering the game, but Santiago Espinal hadn’t joined the fun. The slick-fielding utility infielder, who likely gained a permanent position on the roster when Joe Panik was traded to Miami earlier in the week, came to the plate in the sixth inning batting .297 for the season, but still looking for his first big-league big fly.
Espinal blasted a hanging slider from Matt Wisler 400 feet — almost to the exact spot Springer hit his — to cap the five-run frame.
Espinal is now tied on the Blue Jays’ all-time home run list with, among others, Marcus Stroman, Pat Tabler, Kevin Barker and Munenori Kawasaki.
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