11:26PM Eastern

What started out looking like a little-league affair wound up with only one team looking as though it didn’t belong, and for one of a very few times when these clubs meet up, it was the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Blue Jays have lost each of the past 14 series that they’ve played in Central Florida, and it seems as though many of those losses have either been of the “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” variety, or have involved the Blue Jays’ allowing the Rays a tiny opening with an error, misplay, ill-timed walk or some such and having the Tampas just blast through that hole for a big rally.

In the opener of this series in St. Pete, the Rays got a huge break early thanks to a ridiculous ground rule at Tropicana Field, and were basically handed another run later on by an extremely shaky Kyle Drabek, but they couldn’t put Drabek away and wound up blowing up real good in the 8th inning, allowing the Blue Jays to salt away a win.

The insanity began early, with B.J. Upton coming to the plate with one out in the bottom of the first.  He hit a lazy fly ball to centre, and Colby Rasmus camped under it in front of the warning track, ready to make a play, but the ball hit something and fell in front of him.

The umpires went back to look at the replay and must have seen one that we didn’t, because they determined that the ball hit an object that was suspended from the “B” ring – the second most inside of the four rings that hold up the roof at the Trop.

It’s a categorically insane ground rule – there is no chance the ball would have gone out if it hadn’t hit the catwalk – but as of right now there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

But the Blue Jays didn’t let that get to them, nor did they let six Drabek walks get to them, or three wild pitches by the young righty – all of which came in the third inning.

In fact, despite his wildness, Drabek only gave up one run over six innings other than the extremely tainted 300-foot “home run” to dead centre, as the Rays went 1-for-5 against him with runners in scoring position.  In three of his six innings, a lone walk was the only baserunner the Rays would get.

In the top of the 2nd, the Blue Jays tied it up by taking advantage of a Rays miscue.  Edwin Encarnacion led off with a single and A.L. Player of the Week J.P. Arencibia hit a routine double play ball to third, but T-Bay second baseman Will Rhymes threw wildly to first, allowing Arencibia to go to second, from whence he scored as Eric Thames followed with an RBI single (and was picked off rounding first too far by Jose Molina).

The Blue Jays took the lead for good when Yunel Escobar went deep with one out in the 6th – no catwalks, no guywires, no nothing – and pounced on more Rays’ mistakes in the 8th to score three unearned insurance runs.

Colby Rasmus led off that inning with  his second of two doubles on the night. After Jeff Mathis failed to bunt him over, Kelly Johnson was intentionally walked and Rays’ manager Joe Maddon went to his bullpen for Burke Badenhop.  Escobar hit a comebacker to the mound that got under Badenhop’s glove for an error, loading the bases with one out, but then Badenhop got Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion each to hit inning-ending double-play balls to third – neither of which were turned.

Sean Rodriguez hauled in Bautista’s grounder and threw it into right field, allowing two Jays’ runs to score, and Bautista blew up Rhymes at second on Encarnacion’s grounder, forcing a wild throw and cashing another Jays’ run.

Francisco Cordero came on to work a 1-2-3 bottom of the 8th – he’s retired 12 of the last 13 hitters he’s faced and hasn’t given up a run since being removed from the closer’s job.

The Blue Jays beat the Rays at their own game, and maybe – just maybe – this might mean that the dark cloud that has seemed to follow them every time they head down to the lovely St. Pete-Tampa Bay area is lifting.

Here’s tonight’s edition of The BlueJaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:


Big news from the minor leagues, as well, with Brett Cecil (5.2ip), Danny Farquhar (2.1) and Ronald Uviedo (1.0) combining to throw a no-hitter for the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats in a 6-0 win over the Portland Sea Dogs.  It’s the 3rd no-no in Fisher Cats’ history – the last guy to throw one?  Kyle Drabek.

The Blue Jays and Rays continue their series in St. Pete with a battle of rookies.  21 year-old Drew Hutchison takes the ball against 22 year-old Matt Moore, who was the most talked-about rookie of the spring.  He was the consensus pre-season pick for 2012 rookie of the year, and most seemed to think he’d contend for the Cy Young, too.  Eight starts in, he’s 1-4, 5.20 with a WHIP of 1.578 and opponents’ OPS of .828.  Hutchison has started six times and is 3-1, 4.81 with a WHIP of 1.515 and opponents’ OPS of .780.  We’ll be on the air at 7:00PM Eastern – join us, won’t you?

Please give me a follow on The Twitter – you can find me @wilnerness590.

Comments are welcome – I read them all and respond to most!

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12 Responses to “At Their Own Game”
  1. 1.

    On the Blue Jays talk, you asked callers to evaluate whether the team has turned a page on the Rays. Well, time can only time, with a sample size of one.

    It always pleases me to no end to see a Madden move end up in disaster, and intentionally walking Kelly Johnston seems to have done the trick. It’s a reasonable move, to be sure, with one out, and down one run — bring in a sinker pitcher to induce the double play to YEscobar, and it should have worked — twice, no, three times. Did the Jays get into the Rays head? I don’t think so. It was just a couple of plays that weren’t made because the Rays haven’t been playing well lately. They might have been playing more “tightly” than usual due to the high leverage of the game… well maybe that, by definition, is getting into one’s head.

    Anyway, it’s a good time to move in the AL East. The Jays will need to sweep the Rays and to go out of Tampa ahead of them by a game. And Boston seems to be on a hot streak, despite being short two sets of outfielders.

    There’s hope, and plenty of it.

    - Tim in Niagara Falls
  2. 2.


    I remember a few weeks ago writing you about how there was that play in ’05 or ’06 where Frank Catalanotto lost a ball in the catwalk and John McDonald tracked it down.

    Now this.

    Ridiculous ground rule. Do you remember how the Kingdome in Seattle had a similar ground rule – something about the low-hanging loudspeakers being in play?

    The ancient Baltimore 19th c. baseball team had their Baltmore Chop. Perhaps if more batters refine their technique snd aim at the rings, it will be the “Tampa Bay Trop”.

    - Adrian, co-alumnus
  3. 3.

    Hey Mike, Just wondering if there was a time line for Adam Lind to return from triple A?

    MW: There isn’t. If he goes does, works hard and rakes, he’ll be back.

    - Jamie
  4. 4.


    Love your show and blog. An obvious question that you might have already addressed: why-oh-why didn’t the Jays press for a home game on the holiday yesterday??

    The harbor front was abuzz with activity and it would have been the perfect setting for an afternoon game. How depressing it was (apart from the result) to tune in to yesterday’s game and see an almost empty Tropicana field, which could have easily been 40k+ at the Roger’s center.


    MW: I have always wondered why the Blue Jays don’t have more home games during holidays in Canada. It seems odd that they’re home on Memorial Day after being away on Victoria Day. But at least they were home for the first two days of the long weekend.

    - David Cone
  5. 5.

    Mike, a little early to be saying the tide is changing, don’t you think? Coming off a game where our starting pitcher walked 6 and the winning runs came off of TB errors. I hope I’m wrong but 1 lousy game for both sides that we happened to come out on top isn’t much reason for optimism, this team did sweep us at home just one week ago. Again, I hope I’m wrong but as a radio guy once said you’re never as good as you seem when things are going good.

    MW: It doesn’t take much time to change the tide – that might be the game we look back at and say ” that’s where the Rays domination of the Blue Jays ended.” It’s too early to say that the worm has turned, but it’s not too early to say it might be turning (because it might not).

    - ferdinand
  6. 6.

    Heh! Mike. Last night you dismissed a caller who was complaining about the Rays’ heckler. You said, as long as he isn’t cursing etc… then you see nothing wrong with it. That’s baseball. I DISAGREE!

    I pay way too much for tickets, and bad tasteless food to have to endure some loud mouth clown for the entire evening.

    Love your show!

    MW: If you were at the Trop, you could have moved to your own private section, many were available and wide open.

    - Atlanta
  7. 7.

    Mike, On The JaysTalk you indicated that once Santos returns he will be the undisputed closer for the Jays — Janssen’s performance over the last couple of weeks notwithstanding. I agree with you the Jays won’t push Santos out because of his injury. However, Janssen, considering his excellent year last year and his performance to date this year, instills far more confidence in me than Santos, who blew 6 saves last year, a few already this year and is sporting a 9.00 ERA, does. How many more blown saves do you think until the Jays give Janssen the job to lose, as opposed to only giving it to him when Santos is out? I hope they give Santos only a narrow margin for error as Janssen has been the most reliable arm out of the Jays bullpen since the beginning of the 2011 season.

    MW: Last year was Santos’ first as a big-league closer. His stuff is overwhelming and the Blue Jays hope to have him here in that role for the next six years. He’ll more than likely get the job back as soon as he’s healthy and have a long, long leash.

    - jaysoptimist
  8. 8.

    How about this an interesting box score?

    Tony Fernandez SS
    Juan Beniquez DH
    Rance Mulliniks PH
    Pat Borders C
    Ernie Whitt PH-C George Bell LF
    Kelly Gruber 2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B
    Cecil Fielder 3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B
    Fred McGriff 1B
    Sil Campusano CF
    Rick Leach PH-RF

    MW: I remember it well. Against the Mariners, I believe, and I think in the Jimy Williams days (1988?). Gruber played second for left-handed hitters and third for right-handed hitters, flipping with Fielder.

    - Jamie Wine
  9. 9.

    Great to hear Cecil had a great outing. I still think Cecil deserves another shot with the big club. We have been very patient with Snider, so following the same philosophy, we should give Cecil one more shot to see what he’s made of.

    The dilemma here is that Hutchison has pitched well and probably exceeded many people’s expectations, so he’s got a fairly long leash at the moment as he’s been giving the Jays a chance to win most games he’s pitched in and that’s all we can ask for from our 4th and 5th starters. Even though Cecil was a high pick, but not all high picks work out (eg. Kevin Ahrens). With that said, I’m sure that a lot of fans would like to see some of the kids (Sanchez, Syndergaard and Nicolino) rather than Cecil especially when Sanchez and Syndergaard were compared to Halladay and Carpenter by Pat Hentgen. However, Having the experience Cecil has had especially against tough AL East teams might not be the worst idea if he can gather his game together in the next little while. Not too many pitchers can say they’ve won 15 games in the AL East before, to me that’s at least worth one final shot for Cecil!

    What are your thoughts?

    MW: The question always has to be – is he an improvement on the guy he’d be replacing? Right now, there’s no clear-cut yes. There might be in the future, but by then the guys behind Cecil might have caught and passed him. Maybe not, though. I would hate to think Cecil is done as a Blue Jay, but it’s certainly a possibility.

    - Antony
  10. 10.

    back now but i’ve been away up north for week and a half my friend.
    no access to the internet so no connection whatsoever to your baseball/blue jay lifeline blog unfortunately.
    only the bare necessities i’m afraid… roughing it as they say.
    tent, kerosene lamp, a firestarter, couple boxes of beer and only a transistor radio to listen to the games.
    alright… maybe i’m fibbing a bit as i was up at the cottage in muskoka but i am on septic up there so it’s no box of chocolates believe me michael.
    anyway, missed alot needless to say so no sense trying to catch up on everything.
    glad to be back regardless.
    and as for the these rays… as i said in a previous post here on one of your blogs when the blue jays were last playing these knuckleheads… at least for me on a personal basis, this team has become my arch nemesis in this a.l. east division. and it’s been building for awhile no doubt.
    and anyone paying close attention should be of the same opinion as far as i’m concerned.
    to heck with the yanks and the sox. they’re so yesterday’s news.
    it’s all about the rays and the blue jays now.
    and sticking to my pre season division prediction as posted here at that time.
    rays, blue jays, yanks, red sox and orioles. in that order.
    but unlike you michael, i’m starting to waiver a tad on where the orioles just might finish now. even if it’s only may.
    we’ll see i guess…

    - darrell bishop
  11. 11.

    it was an ugly win, but they’ve lost many this year where they were the better team, so it’s about time. I think they need to change the rules at Tropican field, there was no way that ball was hit well enough to be a home run. I hope MLB does something about that and soon.

    - Mark
  12. 12.

    Romero—-Bring your best tomorrow. No walks. No excuses. Let’s just bring it to the Rays tomorrow. I mean LET’S JUST FLAT BRING IT to them. The team could really build on what may turn out to be a key and pivotal win tomorrow.

    - B A H
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