Sunday, September 24, 2023

Game #156 - Toronto Blue Jays (87-69) @ Tampa Bay Rays (95-62) - game recap

George Springer hit a 3-run inside-the-park home run in a 9-5 come-from-behind win over the Rays


After a heartbreaking walk off loss due to Jordan Romano just not having it, the Blue Jays were going for their 29th series win of the season and trying to end the road portion of the regular season schedule on a winning note. Yusei Kikuchi got the start with Alejandro Kirk behind the plate. George Springer was back in the field after DH'ing yesterday. Vlad got the half day as DH with Cavan Biggio. Whit Merrifield got the start at 2B.  Could the Blue Jays notch their 29th series win and end the road portion of the schedule with a win? 

Game Highlights:

  • The Rays opened the scoring in the bottom of the 1st as Isaac Paredes singled scoring Yandy Diaz
  • A batter later, junior Caminero singled scoring Harold Ramirez
  • The Blue jays tied the game in top of the 2nd as Whit Merrifield singled scoring Alejandro Kirk and Daulton Varsho
  • Two batters later, George Springer got an inside-the-park home run; also scoring Merrifield and Kevin Kiermaier
  • The Rays got one back in the bottom of the 4th as Taylor Walls singled scoring Josh Lowe 
  • Yusei Kikuchi pitching line: 4IP 9H 3R (all earned) 0BB 7K 73 pitches (55 for strikes)
  • The Blue Jays added a run in the top of the 6th as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hammered a solo bomb to dead center
  • The Rays got a pair back in the bottom of the 7th as Paredes belted a 2-run blast to left-center; also scoring Mead
  • The Blue Jays added a run in the top of the 8th as Daulton Varsho tripled home Matt Chapman
  • The Blue Jays added a run in the top of the 9th as Bo Bichette belted a solo bomb to left
  • A batter later, Guerrero Jr. whacked a solo blast to left
  • Final score: Blue Jays 9 Rays 5

My Take:

  • Yusei Kikuchi was hit hard for 3 runs on 9 hits while walking none and striking out 7 over 4 innings. The Rays got to him right away, plating 2 on 4 hits in the 1st inning. Kikuchi did manage to retire the side in order in the 2nd inning, but was back in a jam in the 3rd inning, but got fortunate with Curtis Mead getting greedy trying to stretch a single into a double. Kikuchi's month of September has been a bit of a regression (fatigue?) to 2022 where he wasn't very efficient with his pitches. He has not pitched past this 5th inning this month. You have to take that into account for the postseason. Perhaps the Blue Jays may skip him in the wild card round and let him start in the divisional round, should the Blue Jays make it that far, when he'll be fresher.
  • The bullpen gave up a pair of runs on 4 hits while walking 2 and striking out 5 over the last 5 innings. Every reliever dealt with at least one baserunner. Last year, a bullpen meltdown unceremoniously ended the Blue Jays postseason last season. Can the bullpen hold it together with no guarantee that the Blue Jays will be able to bail them out with additional runs?
  • Offensively, the bats are starting to come together at the right time. Vlad crushed two solo home runs today, George Springer had an inside the park home run, Bo Bichette went deep in the 9th and Whit Merrifield had a clutch 2-run single to tie the game. The Blue Jays are going to need everyone from 1-9 in the lineup contributing to have success in the playoffs.
  • That was certainly the case today with every Blue Jays starter except Cavan Biggio getting a hit and scored at least one run. All but Biggio, Matt Chapman, Alejandro Kirk and Kevin Kiermaier drove in a run.
  • In terms of the wild card race, the Astros and Mariners lost, both teams imploding at the worst possible time. Houston had the seemingly easiest schedule of the Blue Jays, Rangers and Mariners, facing the bottom five teams in the league down the stretch. Instead, they have lost 4 straight series, including 5 of 6 to the KC Royals that included a sweep at home this past weekend. The Mariners haven't been able to produce the magic that allowed them to make the postseason last year and then stun the Blue Jays at the Rogers Center in a wild card series sweep. After the sweep at the hands of the Rangers this weekend, the Mariners pretty much have to win out and hope that the Astros and/or Blue Jays implode in the final week. The Mariners hold the tiebreaker over the Astros and Blue Jays so they only need to be ahead of one of those teams to make the postseason. Baseball can be a crazy sport and even the worst teams can surprise the best teams sometimes.
  • Up next, after an off-day tomorrow, the Blue Jays begin the final home stand of the regular season. They start the final week with a series against the Yankees for bragging rights on the season series. The two teams split the first 10 games, with the Blue Jays outscoring the Yankees 41-29. Ace Kevin Gausman will take the mound for the Blue Jays. The Yankees haven't set their rotation for the series yet.