Series Sum-Up: Rays vs. Blue Jays

 Montreal native Russell Martin's eighth inning home run against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday gave the Toronto Blue Jays a 7-6 win and salvaged a series split for his club. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Montreal native Russell Martin's eighth inning home run against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday gave the Toronto Blue Jays a 7-6 win and salvaged a series split for his club. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

By: Emily (@JaysGirlEmily)

Canadian Baseball Network

Game 1: Tuesday, June 13
Jays lose, 1-8
Losing Pitcher: Marco Estrada

Marco Estrada finally got that 1st-inning monkey off his back, escaping with only one hit allowed. Russell Martin caught Corey Dickerson stealing to end the inning. Estrada loaded the bases with one out in the 2nd, all on softly-hit singles, but escaped again when Derek Norris hit into a 6-4-3 double play. In the bottom half, Kendrys Morales reached on an error, and Troy Tulowitzki followed up with a one-out single, but Martin hit into a double play, leaving the game scoreless. The pitcher they were facing, Jacob Faria, was making only his second career start.

Estrada’s luck ran out in the 3rd, when Taylor Featherston hit a leadoff home run. Two more singles followed, and Logan Morrison also hit a home run to centre field. After another single and a Colby Rasmus double, Martin caught Steven Souza Jr. in a rundown at home, and Estrada got the next hitter to fly out. After allowing a pair of one-out singles in the 4th, Estrada’s night was finished. Dominic Leone entered the game, and both inherited runners scored on an Evan Longoria double. Leone struck out the side in order in the 5th, then Jeff Beliveau made his third relief appearance of the year, going two innings with two strikeouts and one run allowed on a hit and a sac fly in the 7th. That was the seventh Tampa run of the game.

Toronto got their first and only run of the game in that inning, when Martin doubled and Ezequiel Carrera brought him in with a single. Jason Grilli started off a double play to help himself out in the 8th – that erased a leadoff single. The Jays loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half, and Martin hit into a force out. A leadoff Corey Dickerson home run in the 9th put the finishing touch on a seven-run Rays lead. The Jays had eight hits, half as many as their opponents, and stranded nine runners.

Game 2: Wednesday, June 14
JAYS WIN!! 7-6
Starting Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
Winning Pitcher (blown save): Joe Smith
Save: Roberto Osuna

The Jays stranded two in the 1st (a walk and a single) despite Jake Odorizzi struggling with command – six Jays hitters got ahead of him in the count their first time through the order. They had three long fly outs in the first two innings. A Ryan Goins error, and a swinging bunt that rolled up the third base side put two Rays on with one out in the 2nd. Corey Dickerson tripled to right and it was 2-0 Rays. Josh Donaldson then threw out Dickerson at the plate on a fielder’s choice. Kevin Pillar led off the bottom half with a walk, then stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher. After Jose Bautista walked with one out, Kendrys Morales outran a potential double play to score Pillar.

Liriano then loaded the bases with nobody out in the 4th, on two walks and a Mallex Smith bunt single. Steven Souza Jr. was forced out at home, but a sacrifice fly increased the Rays lead to 3-1. Liriano got a strikeout to limit the damage. In the bottom of the 5th, two singles and a fielding error scored the Jays another run, then Morales hit a three-run homer to put them on top 5-3. Liriano struck out the side in order in the 6th. Liriano went 7 innings, with three runs allowed (two earned), five hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts.

The Jays scored another run on a bizarre play in the 6th, when Pillar struck out on a full count with an attempted check swing, but the ball got away from Derek Norris, Pillar jogged slowly to first base and Norris threw him out – but Martin scored from third on the wild pitch. Tampa got back into the game in the 8th when Joe Smith gave up single and Logan Morrison homered. Smith then walked Souza, the first walk he’d issued to a right-handed batter all year. Colby Rasmus got a pinch-hit single, pushing Souza to third. Souza then scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly.

Russell Martin led off the 8th with a solo home run to put the Jays back in the lead. Dwight Smith Jr. then got his third hit of the night, an infield single, advanced on a sac bunt, and stole third (his first career stolen base). Bautista struck out after an intentional walk to Donaldson, stranding a pair. Roberto Osuna struck out Peter Bourjos, then battled Dickerson for nine pitches before fielding a sharp grounder back to the mound. Finally, Evan Longoria popped out to end the game.

Overall Notes:

Ezequiel Carrera was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a hairline fracture in his foot. He fouled a ball off that foot in his second at-bat in Tuesday’s game, but continued to play. Then on Wednesday he was in pain so the team put him on the DL and called up Dwight Smith Jr. in his place.

Weirdly Specific Record Alert:

·         The Blue Jays are currently leading the league in home runs hit in the 7th inning or later. They have 35 such home runs.

My Favourite Player(s) of the week: Martin/Liriano/D. Smith

In this short series, Russell Martin was 3-for-8 with a double and a home run, and three runs scored (including the only run Tuesday, and the go-ahead run Wednesday). His defense was equally impressive, as he made three plays at the plate, and caught one of three runners stealing.

Francisco Liriano had one of his best starts of the year, as he went seven innings and logged nine strikeouts. Though walks have been a problem for him at times this year, he only had two - both in the same inning. He allowed two earned runs on five hits, and actually got better as the night went on, allowing just one baserunner over his final three innings.

Dwight Smith Jr. got his first MLB hit (a double) back in the Milwaukee series, but hasn’t been with the major league club since then. On Thursday, he got his first career multi-hit game, logging three singles in four at-bats, and stole a base.

Where We Are Now:

Tied with Baltimore for last place in the AL East, 6.5 games back of New York.

The bad news is, at this rate, we might never get to see the elusive .500. There’s another injury to add to the growing list of hurt players, and Carrera might actually be out for a few months. They badly need a proper left-fielder.

The good news is, they’ve got a winning record against the pesky Rays, Steve Pearce is making progress in rehab games, and the next few series are against teams (White Sox, Rangers, Royals) who are low in the standings in their respective divisions. There's another chance to reach .500 on Friday, after the off-day.

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The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Visit the Handbook page for more information!