Rays Take Opener, Jays Face Elimination

Jenn Connor
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Tampa Bay Rays captured the opening game of the best-of-three AL wild card series, downing the Toronto Blue Jays 3-1 at Tropicana Field Tuesday night.  


What promised to be a pitcher’s duel between Tampa lefthander Blake Snell and Jays starter Matt Shoemaker -- unbeaten in seven lifetime starts against Tampa -- started out to be exactly that, the game scoreless after three innings.  


What wasn’t expected was that after shutting out the Rays on just 35 pitches, Shoemaker was lifted, Charlie Montoyo sticking to the plan of Shoemaker being in effect an opener not a starter. The veteran righthander gave way to lefthander Robbie Ray, who promptly gave up a lead-off triple to Randy Arozarena. Ray struck out Nate Lowe, but threw a 3-2 wild pitch to Willy Adames that scored Arozarena, Adames reaching on the base on balls. Adames stole second, but was stranded, and the Rays led 1-0 after four.


As surprised as the Rays may have been to see Shoemaker out of the game, the Jays must have been ecstatic to see Snell removed after five and two-thirds.  The Rays lefthander held the Jays to just one hit, a sixth inning lead-off single by dh Alejandro Kirk.  He struck out nine and walked two, throwing 82 pitches. 


With Snell out, the Jays threatened in their half of seventh.  With one out, Rays reliever Diego Castillo hit Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a pitch, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. followed with a single to left, Vlad Jr. stopping at second.  But the rally ended there.  Nick Anderson relieved Castillo and shut the door, retiring Teoscar Hernandez on an infield fly and getting pinch hitter Joe Panik to line out to shortstop Wily Adames.  


A.J. Cole relieved Ray in the bottom of the seventh,  Ray giving up just the one run on one hit over three innings of work. Cole issued a one-out walk to Joey Wendle and the Rays made him pay, Manuel Margot launching a two run-homer to left, giving the Rays a 3-0 advantage. 


The Jays got one back in the top of the eighth. Rowdy Tellez, pinch hitting for Danny Jansen, reached on a single, advanced to third on a double by Cavan Biggio and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Bo Bichette.  The Jays looked to extend the inning, but with two out Randal Grichuk’s scorched line drive was speared by Adames. 


Trailing by two in the ninth, the Jays brought the tying run to the plate after a one-out double by Gurriel Jr. off Rays closer Pete Fairbanks. The Rays fireballer responded, striking out Hernandez and getting Panik on a soft fly to third to put the Rays one game away from advancing. 


Facing elimination in game two tomorrow, the Jays will hand the ball to their ace Hyun-jin Ryu (5-2). The Rays will counter with righthander Tyler Glasnow (5-1).