As is now sadly tradition, the Toronto Blue Jays fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in their recent series at Tropicana Stadium in Florida.
In a manner painfully reminiscent of last season’s pitching horrors, the Blue Jays bullpen flopped in dramatic style over the two weekend games to leave Toronto with just one win from the series.
I’d normally laugh at anyone who calls the third game of the season a crushing loss…
But, man. This borders on it given all the circumstances.
— Scott Mitchell (@ScottyMitchTSN) July 26, 2020
Given the Rays’ status as potential World Series contenders, you might be forgiven for thinking that feeling crushed at these results is a tad melodramatic.
However, it’s the hope that kills you, as the saying goes, and the devastated reaction from Jays fans is testament to how much (well-founded) hope this series has provided for the bizarre season ahead.
Hero of the series – Cavan Biggio
While he struggled a bit more at the plate in the remainder of the series, he was consistently a leader on the field and his statements over the weekend in support of teammate Anthony Alford and his kneeling in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, are testament to his great character and his importance in the clubhouse.
Villain of the series – Kevin Kiermaier
However, while I’ve a great deal of respect for the blue-eyed fielding demon, his walk-off triple in extra innings on Sunday was absolutely gutting. Not only did it secure a pivotal victory for the Rays over a division rival, but it was yet another blow for Shun Yamaguchi.
After a tumultuous spring training, the last thing Yamaguchi needed was a blown save and a loss next to his name. Poor sod.
In a series marred by moments of dire pitching, there was plenty to be optimistic about from a Toronto pitching perspective.
A stellar major league debut for 25 year-old Tom Hatch resulted in no hits and only two walks over nine batters faced. Matt Shoemaker looked dominant over his six innings. Jordan Romano and Anthony Bass saw out their innings in both games without giving up a hit.
While the narrative that Toronto’s bullpen bottled it yet again is not entirely unfair, the pitching situation has come on leaps and bounds since last season.
As a secret admirer of the Rays, many on their roster hold a special place in my heart. The newest addition to this list is Yoshi Tsutsugo. The Rays will need more consistency from this big-hitter if they are to overcome last season’s offensive woes, but he has shown glimpses of promise in a limited number of at-bats.
Silly stat of the series
In a moment that likely won’t be seen again this season or in any of his illustrious seasons to come, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was credited with a first stolen base, having run off of a Blake Snell pitch into the dirt that Mike Zunino was unable to immediately recover.
Whilst it’s a pretty sombre situation when Vladdy has more stolen bases than RBIs, seeing his happiness at having achieved this milestone was pretty heartwarming.
The Dominican is now on #OnPace to beat Biggio’s 2019 season team-leading stolen base count of 14. What a time to be alive.
Jack Ramsden is covering the Toronto Blue Jays during 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @jack_ramsden
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