It was a disappointing afternoon at Too Empty Than Usual for the Blue Jays. They couldn’t do anything with a very strong start from Matt Shoemaker, and a collapse from Sam Gaviglio in the 8th gave the Rays everything they needed to secure the victory.
Ryan Yarborough started for the Rays and knocked the Blue Jays hitters off balance for five and a third shutout innings. He only managed one strikeout, but was able to locate all of his out-of-speed throws, and most importantly his change, all day to avoid solid contact. The Jays were so out of balance with these terrains that they let several 86 mph fast balls over the core of the plate pass.
The Jays managed to threaten in the fourth, thanks to an adventurous base run. Cavan Biggio made a single, then was second on the choice of a defender. Guerrero hit a ball hard, but fair to Kevin Kiermaier in the center field. With Travis Shaw at bat, Biggio snapped for third place before Yarborough went into his liquidation before turning around and trying to get back to second place. Yarborough pitched badly, which led to an awkward collision between Biggio sliding in the sack and Willy Adames trying to cover himself. Biggio was safe, and Yarborough’s concentration seemed to slip for a moment, causing him to walk Travis Shaw. Randal Grichuk hit a hard soloist back to the mound on the next field, which Yarborough was able to bring down but not catch, charging the bases. Teoscar Hernandez almost opened the game with a deep fly at centerfield, but Kiermaier managed to get him in to complete the set.
Matt Shoemaker was able to match him field by field for five innings. He struggled a bit in the first, with a Grounder slapped against the shift for Brandon Lowe and a Yandy Diaz single dropping him into third, but was able to come out thanks to a pop-out from Ji-Man. Choi and a nice shoe catch of a low Joey Wendle from Santiago Espinal. He mostly sailed for the next four innings, although Kevin Kiermaier scared the Jays with a ball against the wall in left field in the fifth inning. Rays wide receiver Michael Perez leads the sixth by walking. He was lifted for pinch runner Michael Brosseau, who immediately scored on a Ji-Man Choi brace to the wall in the left field gap. Brosseau doesn’t look like a pinch racer (he’s rated at 5’10 ”and 215), and he almost blew a tire when he came in third place, but he got the job done. Shoemaker then asked Brandon Lowe to hit an ugly splitter in the outside corner and take on Diaz and Yoshi Tsutsugo.
In total, Shoemaker completed 6 innings, allowing a run on 3 hits and 2 steps, taking out 4. I’ll be taking that everyday from my starter, and I’m glad Reese McGuire was finally able to score to allow him to. avoid a loss of luck.
AJ Cole worked a clean run of relief in the seventh, but needed some luck to do it. Joey Wendle and Manuel Margot hit towering flies on the track, and Kiermaier hit a sharp grounder over the second base sack which would have been a single if Bo Bichette hadn’t been moved behind base.
Sam Gaviglio arrived for the eighth. He said promisingly, with a K from Willy Adames on a high fastball. Then Mike Zunino, hitting for Brosseau, pushed a soft line down the center. Hunter Renfroe came to run for him. Gaviglio then walked Choi and gave up a two-point treble to Lowe. The game was pretty much over at this point, but Gaviglio compounded the damage by balking Lowe at home and walking Diaz across four pitches. It was a brutal crisis to watch. Brian Moran was made to stop the bleeding, and was able to hit Tsutsugo and get Joey Wendle to gently throw off.
On the strike side, there was not much to report. The Jays seem to be struggling with junk ballers, and today is no exception. As a team, they had eight hits and two goals against five strikeouts.
- Reese McGuire (C) crushed a home run to right field for Rays reliever Peter Fairbanks in the seventh. He wiped out his other three times.
- Cavan Biggio (2B) was the other hitter who had a good day, with two singles lines through the shift and a walk. His other downtime, he flew to the runway.
Lourdes Gurriel jr. (LF) lined up a single on the left that was almost stolen by a nice dive from Brandon Lowe. It also flew to the runway, got out, and ran aground.
- Vlad Guerrero Jr. (DH) smashed a single ball on the ground that almost pierced Gurriel from first to second, and lined up hard.
Travis Shaw (1B) made a single, walked and did a really nice dive to help Moran finish the eighth inning.
Randal Grichuk (CF) made a single on a Yarborough glove ground ball
- Bo Bichette had a single in the seventh inning.
Teoscar Hernandez (RF) went smoothly with one out apiece. Santiago Espinal, who was making his MLB debut, did the same, but at least had a nice catch in the third. He was hit by a pinch in the seventh inning by Joe Panik, who struck out and failed.
There was a typical Rays quirk in the game today. Some of them worked and some didn’t. On the bright side, they used three catchers per pinch for Michael Perez and Mike Zunino, relying on Kevan Smith to catch the ninth. It’s rare to see a team willingly put themselves in a position where they don’t have receivers on the bench, but it has worked well here. Both pinch runners scored early on on additional hits.
On the less efficient side, they played a four-way outfield against Cavan Biggio, with two outfielders shifted towards first base and one covering decay towards third. Biggio is as good a candidate for this treatment as any baseball player. Last season, among players who took at least 300 APs, only Mike Trout hit a lower percentage of balls to the ground, and only 24 batters shot the ball more often. You can be pretty sure that a third or short grounder doesn’t come with Biggio at bat, so moving third base to catch flies in the outfield could be a smart compromise. Today, however, Biggio managed to hit the liners throughout the shift and walk. There really is no defense against it.
Jays of the day: Shoemaker (0.167 WPA) and McGuire (0.121) had the number, and I’m going to throw one at Biggio as well for getting it 3 times.
Suction: Sam Gaviglio (-0.364) more than deserves this one. Gricuk and Hernandez also had the number, but really the whole offense except for the two guys mentioned above should share the dishonor.
DangYouToHeck took us to defeat this afternoon.