Blue Jays: Analyzing the upcoming series against the Tampa Bay Rays

Apr 21, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr (13) and right fielder Randal Grichuk (15) and center fielder Jonathan Davis (3) celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 21, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr (13) and right fielder Randal Grichuk (15) and center fielder Jonathan Davis (3) celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

This weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays will be heading down to Tropicana Field to face the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-game series. Considering the Blue Jays are currently being housed in Dunedin, some 37 kilometers away, the players will almost get a sense of being “at home” yet still playing like an away team against the Rays.

The Opponent

The Rays are entering this series on a high note, sitting 2 games back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East and have won 5 of their last 6 games. Similar to the Blue Jays, they too had an off-day yesterday after facing the Kansas City Royals.

On the mound for the Rays tonight will be Tyler Glasnow, a hard-throwing right-hander who is off to an impressive start to begin the season with a 0.73 ERA and 36 strikeouts over 24.2 innings, allowing only two earned runs and seven walks in four games. While it has not been officially announced, the Rays will most likely send southpaw Ryan Yarbrough to the mound on Saturday and left-hander Josh Fleming on Sunday when looking at five-day starting patterns (subject to change). Yarbrough currently sports a 5.40 ERA over 21.2 innings while Flemming has performed well, starting two games and currently owning a 0.87 ERA over 10.1 innings with five strikeouts and two walks.

The hottest bat in the Rays lineup right now is Joey Wendle, who is currently sporting a .365/.388/.619 line with three home runs and 15 RBI along with an impressive 1.007. The rest of the Rays lineup is either struggling to reach the Mendoza line or is sitting around the .250 average, which could bode well if the Blue Jays starters are on their best form this weekend. While some of the Rays are not playing well, there are a few bats in the lineup who have been a thorn in the side of the Blue Jays pitchers like Brandon Lowe and Kevin Kiermeier, along with last year’s playoff sensation Randy Arozarena, and should not be taken lightly.

The Toronto Blue Jays

The visiting team for this weekend series, the Blue Jays are coming off a win and a split series against the Boston Red Sox and will need to get their bats going early against the Rays pitching staff. Steven Matz, Robbie Ray, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are scheduled to face the Rays, with arguably the top three pitchers in the rotation being on the mound this weekend. While Matz and Ryu have been impressive to begin the season, Ray will have to keep his walks in check if he wants to go deep into the game and not tax the bullpen too heavily. It should also be noted that the last time Ryu pitched against the Rays was during last year’s Wild Card game where he was unable to get out of the second inning after giving up seven runs (only three earned). Five of the players in the Rays batting order are lefties but both Ray and Matz have better splits when facing right-handed batters this season, which should make for a tough and interesting weekend for the Blue Jays starters.

There is the added comfort that the team had an off day yesterday and does have an off day on Monday, so if the relief pitchers do need to come in early or get overworked, they are at least going to have an additional rest day before they head into their next series against the Washington Nationals.

Hitting-wise, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette will be high on the Tampa Bay Ray’s radar as both players are hitting well as of late. I’d be surprised if Charlie Montoyo decides to move Cavan Biggio down in the lineup considering how well the team played Wednesday with him leading off and how Marcus Semien has been struggling at the top of the order so far this season. At the same time, it also wouldn’t be a shock to see Semien back at the top of the order given some of the moves Montoyo has made this season.

While fans may have been hoping to see Teoscar Hernandez and George Springer in the lineup tonight, an update from Ross Atkins yesterday most likely has both players returning/appearing in the Nationals series rather than against the Rays. While there is the possibility both could return possibly by Sunday, don’t be surprised if both are eased back into the schedule next week sometime.

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The biggest test for the Blue Jays this series will be tonight against Glasnow, as he is pitching well, throws hard, and can strike players out with ease, something the Jays batters have struggled with early in the season.


  • Glasnow has faced the Blue Jays six times in his career and has held them to a .239 batting average with 32 strikeouts and five home runs over 21 hits.
  • Yarborough has faced the Jays 12 times, keeping them to a .228 average allowing only 17 runs off 44 hits
  • Fleming has one appearance against the Blue Jays, facing 19 batters while only giving up two runs while striking out four over 5.0 innings of work

The Rays may have the momentum heading into the series, but the Blue Jays are sending out their top starters over the next three games and the bullpen has been pitching well all season even with the multitude of injuries.

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The key question will be whether the bats show up to Tropicana Field, as Ryu and Matz can keep opponents off the scoreboard, but the Jays will need to put some runs on early in the game and keep the throttle on through all nine innings if they want to try and move ahead of their AL East opponents.

Two or three wins against the Rays this series would do wonders for the Jays in the standings, as the team could move into at least second place (or tied for second) if they take the series.