The Toronto Blue Jays opened a three game series against the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night in St. Petersburg. This is already the second trip in 2016 to the “House of Horrors” for the Blue Jays. The last time they split a four game series at Tropicana Field but missed an opportunity to sweep the series due to some bullpen meltdowns, a poor managerial decision and the “infamous” illegal second base slide by Jose Bautista. The Jays entered the night on a three game losing streak, wherein the Toronto offense had been struggling. Having tallied one run in the last 24 innings. Tampa Bay was sending the tough lefty Drew Smyly to face Aaron Sanchez of the Blue Jays.
Sanchez was just coming off his shortest and least effective start last Friday against the Athletics. This start didn’t begin as he hoped as he allowed two singles to the first two hitters Logan Forsythe and Brad Miller. However, he was able to retire the next three hitters on eight pitches, including two strikeouts. He carried that effectiveness throughout the game, mixing his pitches and keeping his fastball down. Sanchez’s final line was 7 IP, 0 ER, 2BB, 6K. 103 pitches/71 strikes.
Smyly was effective, and able to keep the Jays hitters off balance by inducing many weak pop ups and striking out eight over six innings. He only allowed two hits, however, they were monster home runs by Michael Saunders and Josh Donaldson. Saunders’ off the top of the wall in deep center, Donaldson’s a moon shot off the catwalk in the outfield. He left the game down 2-0.
The Jays were able to take advantage of the Rays bullpen and added on three more runs in the eighth inning. Saunders hit his second home run of the game and Justin Smoak lined a two run single with the bases loaded. They added another run in the ninth on an improbable opposite field solo shot off the bat of the second baseman Ryan Goins. The Rays countered with a solo shot by Brad Miller off the struggling Drew Storen (10.13 ERA).
Roberto Osuna, needing some work, finished this game in the ninth as the Jays took game one by a score of 6-1.
Top Play of the Game by WPA
Josh Donaldson, who commented after the loss Wednesday night that some of the hitters in the lineup had to “evaluate their approach at the plate”, continued his flawless approach. He hit a massive sixth inning home run that gave the Jays a 2-0 lead and increased the WPA by .137.
Bottom Play of the Game by WPA
The Jays had just opened the scoring in the top of the third with a solo shot by Michael Saunders, and the Rays were threatening in the bottom of the inning. With two on and one out the Rays best hitter Evan Longoria came to the plate and proceeded to fly out to right field and reduced the Rays the WPA by -.055.
Russell Martin Avoids Infamy
Russell Martin entered the game tied with Juan Francisco, Alex Rios, Colby Rasmus with the dubious record of most consecutive Blue Jay strikeouts (as a batter) with seven. He proceeded to strike out in his first two at bats of the night and set a new Blue Jay record. In the seventh inning, he ended the streak by hitting a single to the opposite field, coming up short of Rick Ankiel’s record of 10 consecutive K’s. Martin has been dealing with neck pain and it is most likely impacting his ability at the plate, but his value behind the plate is crucial to the success of this team.
Captain Canada: Michael Saunders
Since being inserted into the leadoff spot Michael Saunders continues to produce quality at bats for the Jays. He has been taking pitches, hitting the ball with authority and is a solid table setter for the rest of the lineup. Tonight he took things into his own hands having his first multi home run game as a Blue Jay. A line of .324/.377/.606 is more than the Jays could have hoped for, and he, too, was in the hunt for a Blue Jays record tonight.
Michael Saunders is the 3rd different Canadian in #BlueJays history with a multi-Home Run game (Martin 2x, Stairs)
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) April 30, 2016
The Jays go for two wins in a row Saturday as JA Happ (and his 2.42 ERA) will take on Tampa ace Chris Archer (and his 5.47 ERA) starting at 6:10 pm. Yes, those are the correct numbers beside their names.
Feature Photo- Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports