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?
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