MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

Recap: Rays 5, Blue Jays 3; Controversial Bullpen Management Aids in Jays Late Loss

In a similar fashion to last night’s game, the Blue Jays lost after holding the lead into the late innings. This game was not determined by a controversial umpires decision, but rather a controversial decision by John Gibbons. Josh Donaldson hit a three-run homer in the 3rd inning, which turned out to be the only offense the Jays could muster for the duration of the game. It seemed like it might be enough, until the 8th inning when Gavin Floyd allowed two of the first three batters to reach. Then, Gibbons brought in Arnold Leon to try and clean up the situation. Leon was one of the last men to make the bullpen and hardly someone most fans would expect to see in a one run game in the eighth inning with two men on. He gave up a three-run homer and the Jays went on to lose 5-3. The Rays starter Matt Moore looked good but not great during his first start of the year. He was able to induce weak contact and missed quite a few bats with his changeup, but his pitch count skyrocketed and he lasted only five innings. This concludes the opening series of the year, with the Jays and the Rays taking two apiece.

Top Play of the Game by WPA

As the Jays were leading 3-2 in the 8th inning, Steven Souza Jr. hit a three-run homer to give the Rays the lead. This increased the Rays’ chances of winning by 46.5%, giving them a 94% chance to win the game from there on. Souza had a great game, hitting two homers and individually generating 0.713 WPA by himself.

Bottom Play of the Game by WPA

In the 9th inning, the Jays got the leadoff man on first base. He was quickly erased by a Russell Martin double play which essentially put the final nail in the coffin for the team. Martin’s double play decreased the Jays chance of winning by 12.8%. Hopefully Martin can turn on the offensive jets in the home opener.

Gibbons’ Questionable Bullpen Management

Once thought to be John Gibbons’ strong suit, his management of the bullpen today has left Jays fans scratching their heads. He took out J.A. Happ after he allowed the leadoff man to reach in the 7th, a logical decision in a one-run game. Then, Gibby brought in Gavin Floyd to finish off the 7th and had him go out for the 8th, which is also quite reasonable. It is here where things turned south. Apparently the setup man, Drew Storen, was unavailable as he got warmed up twice yesterday (even though there is an off day tomorrow). Floyd then got into trouble in the 8th, allowing two of the first three batters to reach on soft contact. It was at this point that Gibbons brought in the worst reliever in the bullpen, Arnold Leon, instead of Roberto Osuna or even sticking with Floyd. In absolutely predictable fashion, Steven Souza Jr. hit a three-run homer as the Rays took the lead 5-3 and never gave it back. Hopefully Gibbons has learned from this, and goes with his best guys in the highest leverage situations going forward.

J.A. Happ Shines in his Second-Debut with the Jays

I thought Happ looked quite sharp in his season debut for the Jays. He threw the ball down in the zone and mixed in his cutter quite effectively to both sides of the plate. He had the ability to jam righties with the cutter inside but also threw some on the outside part of the plate resulting in strike outs. He got into a jam in the 4th but got a massive strikeout of Kevin Kiermaier with the bases loaded and one out, and then finished the inning by inducing a popup. At the end of the day, Happ finished the game pitching into the 7th inning, giving up seven hits, two earned runs, striking out four and walking only one.

Josh Donaldson Removed from the Game

Josh Donaldson hit a three-run homer in the 3rd inning that put the Jays up 3-0, but when the cameras followed him into the dugout, things didn’t look right for the reigning AL MVP winner. Gibbons was talking with him and the Jays trainer George Poulis was hovering nearby. In subsequent at-bats Donaldson didn’t look comfortable, and finally in the 7th inning Donaldson was taken out of the game. The injury appears to be a strained calf and he is day-to-day for now.

Strike Outs, Strike Outs and More Strike Outs!

Through the first 3 games of the season, the Jays struck out 36 times. Today that trend continued, as Tampa pitchers struck out another 10 bringing the total to 46 K’s in 4 games. Last season, the Blue Jays complimented their immense power with the ability to put the ball in play and not strike out. While the season is still very young, the team would like to put an end to this strike out bug before it becomes a true problem.

Up Next

Next up we have the highly anticipated home opener against the Red Sox on Friday at 7:07! Marcus Stroman gets the rare honour to pitch in the season opener and the home opener. His counterpart on the mound will be Rick Porcello (4.92 ERA, 1.36 WHIP in 2015). Get excited everyone, because baseball will officially be back on Canadian soil in less than two days.

Lead Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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