On a night after the odd nostalgia of seeing David Price duel against Alex Cobb, the Rays outmatched the Toronto Blue Jays Jays by a score of 8-0. On the one hand, the Rays were aggressive at the plate and on the basepaths, and, on the other, the defense was sterling and the pitching was excellent. Tonight’s game, with homers from Evan Longoria and Wil Myers, was a vision of the sort of team the Rays should have been. Oddly enough it was with Drew Smyly on the mound instead of Price.
The Rays offense, fresh from inactivity yesterday, worked aggressively today against Marcus Stroman. Longoria pulled the first pitch he saw (he’s swinging at a career-high 32.6% of first-pitches this season) into the left-field seats.
The Rays second run encapsulated their aggressive approach. Myers walked and then immediately stole second. He advanced to third on a wild-pitch, and Kevin Kiermaier drove him in with a dribbler through the middle. I say “dribbler” but Kiermaier hustled a double out of it. Their third run was scored off of a botched double-play ball. As Edwin Encarnacion failed to glove a throw in the dirt that would have otherwise completed the double-play, Matt Joyce, rounding third, quickly recognized that the ball had skidded away from Encarnacion and sprinted home without a throw.
Desmond Jennings chased Stroman from the game when Stroman left a fastball up in the zone with runners on first and second. Jennings drove it back through the middle for the Rays fourth run (and third hit in a row, following Casali and Kiermaier). Zobrist continued the hit-streak by bouncing the ball through the right side off of new Jays reliever Aaron Loup. Then Joyce bounced an infield single over the pitcher’s head. The stage, it seems as always, was set for Longoria. He responded with a double down the left-field line, driving two runs in.
Myers continues his personal streak of getting called-out on pitches at least one-inch off of the outside corner: nearly every at-bat against Price yesterday and twice today against Stroman. Myers’ swing still mostly seems out-of-joint, but his first hit since coming off the DL was a solo HR tonight. After the game, in a televised interview, Myers claimed that he felt something “good” in the batter’s-deck before the HR at-bat. Hopefully this means he’s regaining last year’s form.
Kiermaier had something of a personal “throwback” performance today. Struggling slightly of recent, he had two hustle-doubles and showed off his defensive skills impressively running down a fly bally in right.
Drew Smyly was apparently on the mound for the Rays tonight, but I seem to have missed him. He was extremely efficient, he worked quickly, and kept Toronto hitters off balance. When I expected the Jays to be coming to bat, it seemed that they had already somehow had their turn. The Rays’ half of the 6th alone seemed to take longer than Smyly’s previous 5 innings of work. Smyly had only faced one man over the minimum through 5, throwing 56 pitches through 5 innings. He wasn’t striking out many (4 total); instead he induced poor contact from baffled Jays batters. He retired the final 19 batters of the game for his first complete-game shutout of his career, throwing 105 pitches. Over the game Smyly only allowed two hits and didn’t walk any.