Blue Jays barely squeak by Rays in 20-1 nail-biter
By Eric Treuden
Who would've thought that the last place Blue Jays (saying that hurts more and more every time) would be the first team in Major League Baseball to score 20 runs in a game this year?
During the evening matchup against the Tampa Bay Rays, who are easily the best team in the league to start the season, the Blue Jays had a much-needed offensive explosion. Every single starter notched at least one base hit, all three players who came in as late-inning defensive replacements did the same, and the pitching was damn near perfect.
Let's start with the pitching. José Berríos, making his 10th start of the year, went seven innings and allowed just one earned run on five hits while striking out five. This start could mark a turn around for him on the mound, one that has been a long time coming. The 28-year-old lowered his season ERA all the way down to 4.22 and is now 4-4 on the season.
The offensive output for the Blue Jays was even more impressive than the quality start put together by Berríos. The starting lineup struck hard and struck often against the Rays' top prospect Taj Bradley, who allowed four runs on nine hits. To his credit, he did strikeout seven Blue Jays before being chased after four innings.
After relief pitcher Zack Burdi surrendered six runs of his own (five earned), Kevin Kelly and Colin Poche each threw scoreless innings, but the damage had already been done. To close out the game, the Rays went with outfielder/first baseman Luke Raley and catcher Christian Bethancourt, two position players.
Say what you will about position players pitching, but by the time they entered the game, the contest was most definitely lost, as the Jays had a 10-1 lead by the time Raley took the mound.
The two position players wound up pitching the last two innings of the game, allowing a combined 11 hits and 10 earned runs including three longballs.
After Vladimir Guerrero Jr. struck out against Raley in his first at-bat against him, he promptly knocked a grand slam out of the park against the righty and his 52mph heater. Matt Chapman followed two batters lately with a two-run home run before Danny Jansen hit one of his own in the ninth inning.
Other offensive highlights include George Springer going 4-for-5 with three runs scored and two driven in; Ernie Clement registering a base hit in his first at-bat as a Blue Jay, and Daulton Varsho going 3-for-6 with three runs driven in.
This victory for the Blue Jays couuld not have come at a better time and could not have come against a better opponent. This victory, while it is just one in a long, long season, could serve as a momentum-shifter for a club who entered Tuesday's contest with five straight losses. Taking this one from the first-place Rays puts the Jays 8.5 GB of the AL East division. It's a start.