After a heartbreaking loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Rays had to put that in the past as they traveled to Toronto to take on the Blue Jays on Friday. Behind some great pitching, the Rays took game one of the series by a score of 1-0. With the win the Rays moved to 71-77 on the season.
Prior to this game, Joe Maddon told Marc Topkin that “he’d be pleased with six solid innings” from starter Nate Karns. Well, Karns delivered that and more. In the 1st inning it looked like Karns’ command issues might end his start before it really got started. He walked two batters and hit another in the inning, though he managed to get out of it unscathed. After that though, Karns settled down and dominated, and he didn’t walk another batter the rest of his outing. Karns finished by going 7.0 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out eight while throwing 114 pitches, 72 of which were for strikes. He relied on his fastball-power curve combination the whole start, only throwing one changeup. Those two pitches looked great, with his fastball sitting in the 94-96 MPH range with late life and his mid-80’s curve featuring devastating late break. One start doesn’t answer the question of if Karns can remain a starter, but he did nothing but impress in his Rays’ debut.
One day after he blew save and allowed three runs against the Yankees, the Rays showed faith in Jake McGee by handing him a one-run lead in the 8th. McGee responded by throwing a 1-2-3 inning, though his command was not as sharp as we have grown accustomed to. In the 9th the Rays then turned to Grant Balfour to secure the save. The Rays are pretty much out of contention, and as such they are looking towards next year. With Balfour making $7.5 million next season the Rays want him to return to his closer form, and thus they will be looking for opportunities like this to boost his confidence in the season’s final couple of weeks. Balfour responded in this game, throwing a 1-2-3 inning to preserve the lead and earn the save. Balfour hasn’t allowed a run in his past 6 outings, so maybe he is finally turning a corner after struggling mightily this season.
The offense, meanwhile, was hardly awe-inspiring. They managed a total of just two hits and drew just two walks. Ryan Hanigan was the reason they scored anything, as he hit a solo home run in the 3rd inning, his 5th of the year. Hanigan hasn’t been quite the offensive boost that the Rays were hoping for when they acquired him last offseason, as he is hitting .227/.320/.333 on the season. But since returning from the DL on August 26th Hanigan has hit .306, so the Rays are hoping he can ride that momentum through the end of this year and into next season. Overall the offense disappointed, but they did enough given the great pitching.