It has been made well known, the Toronto Blue Jays have not won a series in Tampa Bay against the Rays since Apil 6-8th of 2007. After the opening series to start the season, that status quo remains unchanged. The Jays are now 0-19-2 in the last 21 series against the Rays in Tropicana Field.
Blue Jays split the opening series with the Rays at 2 games a piece, but had an opportunity to win the series in the series finale–having won 2 of the previous 3 games.
Jays opened the season along with the majority of the league on Monday, March 31st–with their knuckleballer R.A. Dickey on the mound, taking the rubber to begin the season for the 2nd straight year. However the former Cy Young winner did not fair well in his first start, giving up 6 runs on 5 hits and a career high 6 walks in just 5 innings pitched. Meanwhile the Jays bats were being shutout by the opposing former Cy Young winner, Rays’ ace David Price–who pitched a terrific 7 innings before giving up a 2-run home run to Blue Jays pinch hitter Erik Kratz. Those were the only runs the Jays would get on the day as they were blown out 9-2 in the season opener.
Worse than suffering the loss, came in the opening at-bat of the season after leadoff hitter Jose Reyes flied out to center and took himself out of the game citing left hamstring tightness–which would later land him on the 15-DL to begin the season. As a result, Jonathan Diaz was called up from AAA Buffalo to fill the void left at shortstop by Reyes.
The Jays fared much better in game 2, as Drew Hutchison made his first major league start in nearly two years–coming off Tommy John surgery. Hutchison threw a shutout 5 1/3 innings, allowing just 3-hits–while his fastball was not what it was reported in Spring Training, Drew was still able to average around 92MPH (the same speed as in 2012).
While Hutchison was shutting them down on the mound, the offense provided most run support on one swing of the bat–in the form of Adam Lind‘s 3-run home run off of Alex Cobb in his first at-bat of the season (not playing in the season opener). Jonathan Diaz also made his first career start for the Blue Jays, and made his presence felt right away. Known strictly for his defensive abilities, Diaz showed off not only his glove but also his bat by driving in the Jays’ 4th run on his first career major league hit.
The Rays would eventually make things interesting and score late in the game against the Jays’ bullpen–which was their biggest strength last season. With Casey Janssen on the DL, Sergio Santos was anointed the new closer by Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. His first inning of work did not go well, giving up a run and allowing the Rays to get the tying run on base at 2nd. But Santos would strikeout the side and hold on to get the save and secure the Blue Jay first win of the season, 4-2.
Game 3 of the series saw a pair of left-handed pitchers duel on the mound, but one would prove far superior over the other on the Wednesday night. Mr. Consistency, Mark Buehrle entered his 15th MLB season having made at least 30 starts and pitched over 200 innings in each of his last 13 seasons. Buehrle would prove stellar on the mound against the Rays–a team he had struggled against in 2013 (5.76 ERA, 1.68 WHIP in 4 games). Buehrle pitched a gem, coming one out away from a complete game shutout (striking out 11 batters), manager John Gibbons decided to lift him for Santos after Buehrle gave up just his 4th hit of the game in the 9th.
The Jays defense to begin the 2014 season was the complete opposite of 2013, what was a liability is now an asset. The infield provided ample defensive gems for groundball pitcher Mark Buehrle. The most notable being 3rd baseman Brett Lawrie, who had a couple highlights of his own including a vertical leap to rob Sean Rodriguez of a line drive base hit.
Providing the offense, was none other than Joey Bats himself, Jose Bautista crushed 2 solo home runs to left field–one off of starter Matt Moore, the other off reliever Josh Lueke. Although Santos was unable to get a 2nd consecutive save–walking the lone batter he faced–Brett Cecil was able to close it out and pick up his first save of the season and the Jays’ 3-0 win.
Coming into the series finale up 2 games to 1, Blue Jays were looking break the winless streak in Tampa that has hovered over them for 10 years now. Brandon Morrow took the rubber against the newly contract extended, Chris Archer.
Morrow would have to battle his way through 5 innings, but his biggest struggle came in the 3rd when the Rays rallied for 4 straight hits, leading to 3 runs in the inning. Morrow’s defense did not help as Jose Bautista misplayed what should have been a single to the outfield, an awkward slide would allow David DeJesus to have a triple–starting the whole rally. Overall, Morrow would exit after 5, giving up 4 runs on 7 hits and striking out 4, throwing just 87 pitches. Not his best stuff, but not the worst start either.
Toronto quickly got back into the ball game scoring against Chris Archer in the 4th, as they parlayed a Bautista walk and a Lind single into two runs–Navarro RBI sac fly and Lawrie 2-out RBI single. But that would be all the Jays would get on this night, Archer retired 7 of his last 8 batters to end his outing at 6 innings, surrendering just 4 hits and striking out 7.
Blue Jays kept it a close 2-run deficit until the 7th, that is when Evan Longoria hit the Rays’ first home run of the season, a 3-run shot off of reliever Esmil Rogers to blow the game wide open. Rays would take the series finale 7-2, and a split of the opening series.
- Maicer Izturis is currently the Blue Jays’ hottest hitter, beginning the season hitting .600 (6 for 10 AB)
- Melky Cabrera became the Blue Jays new leadoff hitter with Reyes on the DL, and has a hit in every game this season
- Adam Lind had 8 of his 9 plate appearances come against right handed pitchers, hitting .429 overall
- Edwin Encarnacion has started the season on the other end of the spectrum, with just 1 hit in 4 games (.063, 1 for 16)
- Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus both have just 1 hit on the season in 14 ABs (.071)
- Ryan Goins is the only Blue Jay starter a hit (0 for 11)
- Mark Buehrle was the only Jays starter to go past the 6th inning
- Jeremy Jeffress has a WHIP of 3.43 after 2 relief appearances (5 hits, 3 walks)
- Blue Jays were outscored by the Rays 18-11 in the series
Blue Jays now head home to Toronto to take on the New York Yankees in their home opener at the Rogers Centre and begin a 3 game series.