The Rays opened up this 2020 campaign against a talented young Blue Jays team. The Rays had to face off against Hyun-jin Ryu in the first game of the series on Friday. Ryu is a crafty left-hander that uses his great changeup and precision to keep hitters off balance. Ryu didn’t have the best outing though as he gave up 3 earned runs in only 4 2/3 innings. Unfortunately Charlie Morton was off his game as well as he gave up 6 earned runs on 7 hits highlighted by a 3-run homer by Cavan Biggio. The Rays struggled mightily with runners in scoring position as they went 1 for 10. The bright spot was Yoshi Tsutsugo’s 2-run HR that he launched to the opposite field off of Ryu. The Rays lost 6-4 in the opener.
Saturday’s game followed a different pattern. Ryan Yarbrough took the mound to start the game and he was stellar. Yarbrough tossed 5 1/3 innings giving up 0 earned runs and only 4 hits. 49 of his 69 pitches were strikes as he lived up to his great composure and command. Opposite Yarbrough was starting pitcher, Matt Shoemaker who also pitched very well giving up only 3 hits and 1 run through 6 innings. This game would be decided by the bullpens as the score was 1-1 going into the 8th. The Rays felt good about this situation as their bullpen is one of the best in the league. Brandon Lowe broke open the game in the bottom of the 8th with a bases clearing triple that plated 2 runs. A few pitches later, Lowe was balked in to make it 4-1. The Jays were held scoreless the rest of the game as Nick Anderson recorded the win and Oliver Drake got the save.
The third game of this 3-game set saw more offensive struggles for Tampa Bay. Blake Snell started on the mound and tossed 2 scoreless frames before being replaced by Trevor Richards. Snell was limited today due to his arm still being in Spring Training condition. He doesn’t want to rush into the season and possibly get injured. Richards tossed 3 innings and gave up 4 runs on 6 hits. Trevor was throwing a great game until the 6th inning when the Blue Jays recorded 6 consecutive hits. That inning felt like it wouldn’t end as everything seemed to fall the Blue Jays’ way. The switch-hitter Ji-Man Choi started the offense for the Rays. Yes, you read that right: “Switch-Hitter”. Right-handed Choi hit a laser over the fence in the bottom of the 6th to make it 4-1. The Rays added another run in the 7th as they continued to chip away and then it got really interesting in the 9th. The Blue Jays closer, Ken Giles struggled with command and ended up loading the bases with 2 outs. Choi walked in a run and then Brandon Lowe hit an infield single RBI to force extra innings. We had the first chance to witness the new extra innings rule for 2020 where a runner is automatically put on 2nd base to start every inning from the 10th inning on. I am personally not a fan of the rule because I believe that it doesn’t represent the Major Leagues well. It seems more like a little league rule, but I understand that the MLB is trying to speed up the pace of games. The Blue Jays put up the one “extra” run in the 10th and then the Rays got a chance with a runner on 2nd. A walk by Jose Martinez and a double by Kevin Kiermaier gave the Rays a walk-off victory for their 2nd win of this shortened season.
The bright spot for the Rays offense has been Brandon Lowe who currently carries a .455 BA. I also love the fight in this team as they find a way to take 2 out of 3 against a solid Toronto club, but the offense needs to be better and hopefully adding Meadows to the lineup soon will help.