|Yusei Kikuchi threw six strong innings in a 4-1 win over the Rays|
After dropping yesterday's game thanks to shaky bullpen efforts from David Phelps and Tim Mayza, the Blue Jays were looking to start the Canada Day long weekend with a win. They opened a rare 5-game series against the Rays thanks to a double header Saturday to make up one of the postponed games due to the lockout that delayed the start of this season by 2 weeks. The Rays took 2 of 3 in the Blue Jays house of horrors - Tropicana Field - and outscored the Blue Jays 9-7 May 13-15. Yusei Kikuchi got the start with Gabriel Moreno behind the plate. Vlad was back in the field after DH'ing yesterday. Teo was back in RF after getting the full game off yesterday. Alejandro Kirk served as DH tonight. Could the Blue Jays start the Canada Day long weekend with a win? Here is tonight's game recap.
- Matt Wisler pitching line: 1IP 0H 0R 1BB 1K 14 pitches (8 for strikes)
- The Blue Jays opened the scoring in the bottom of the 2nd as Teoscar Hernandez annihilated a 2-run bomb to the second deck in left-center; also scoring Alejandro Kirk
- The Rays got one back in the top of the 4th as Isaac Paredes hammered a solo bomb to the second deck in left
- Yusei Kikuchi pitching line: 6IP 4H 1R (earned) 1BB 8K 95 pitches (63 for strikes)
- The Blue Jays added a pair of runs in the bottom of the 7th as Santiago Espinal whacked a 2-run blast just over the wall in left and into the Blue Jays bullpen; also scoring Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
- Adam Cimber pitched a perfect 9th for his 4th save of the season
- Final score: Blue Jays 4 Rays 1
- Yusei Kikuchi had his best start in a Blue Jays uniform, allowing 1 run on 4 hits while walking 1 and striking out 8. His biggest issue this season has been command and in particular command of the fastball and the early innings. He had both going tonight. Kikuchi got the 1st 2 outs on just 3 pitches. After walking Harold Ramirez on 5 pitches, Kikuchi came right back and struck out Randy Arozarena on 4 pitches to give him an efficient 12 pitch inning. His only real mistake was the home run ball by Isaac Paredes that is rumored to still be descending. Hopefully this outing is a sign of things to come for Kikuchi and not just a one-off solid start.
- The Rays employed an interesting strategy tonight, using the opener they frequently use where the "starter" pitches one or two innings max and the next guy up pitches the bulk of the innings. This was a risky move today with so much baseball to come over the next 3 days (at least 36 innings worth over the next 72 hours, including a minimum 18 on double header Saturday). Bullpen management will be critical.
- Speaking of bullpens, the Blue Jays was solid tonight, holding the Rays to a hit and a walk over the last 3 innings. Trent Thornton and David Phelps both had bounce back efforts after bad outings this week. Adam Cimber showed he is reliable on nights when Jordan Romano is unavailable.
- A pair of 2-run shots was all the offence the Blue Jays needed and got today. Teo and Santiago Espinal were the only batters to get multiple hits. George Springer, who got a hit and drew a walk, was the only other Blue Jay to reach base more than once.
- Vlad was the only Blue Jay not to reach base at all.
- The Blue Jays were 0-6 with runners in scoring position
- Up next, the Blue Jays try to make it two wins in a row. Ace Jose Berrios starts against Rays righty Corey Kluber