Was Steven Souza promoted to the big leagues before he was ready? We can’t be completely sure of the answer to that yet, but we know which answer Souza wants to be true and Tuesday showed what he is going to do to get there. Souza got the Tampa Bay Rays offense started and helped it finish off the Toronto Blue Jays in a 3-2 Rays win.
Souza made his first Rays home run resound. The first pitch he saw from Daniel Norris was a fastball right down the middle and he absolutely crushed it to dead center for a solo homer. We had heard about Steven Souza’s tremendous power, but that swing was the first time we saw it in action. The Rays see Souza as a potential middle-of-the-order slugger, and it is that power that they hope to see plenty more of.
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Souza’s second hit of the game could not have been any more different. He dug in against Blue Jays right-hander Miguel Castro in a 2-2 game in the 8th inning and laid down an excellent bunt down the third base line for a single. Two batters later, Souza took off for second base, and when Russell Martin‘s throw ended up in the outfield, he ended up on third base. That proved critical when Souza scored just a few pitches later on Desmond Jennings‘ sac fly.
We just spent a couple of sentences lauding Souza’s power, but there is so much more to his game. He is a legitimate basestealer, he can lay down bunts, and he should be a strong defender in right field. He has an excellent approach at the plate, one that will lead to a lot of walks, and he understands that he is best off trying to be a gap-to-gap hitter and not trying too hard to hit home runs. Add up the whole Steven Souza package, and you have a potential All-Star outfielder.
In between Souza’s heroics, the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching staff had an interesting time. Matt Andriese went 3.2 innings in his big league debut allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. He left the game after 72 pitches because he had topped out at 78 pitches in spring training and had thrown just 2 innings since March 25th. Especially with that rust factor in mind, Andriese did a nice job keeping the Blue Jays off-balance with his deception along with his pitches’ movement.
After Kirby Yates allowed one of the runners he inherited from Andriese to score, the Rays’ bullpen was excellent. Yates finished with 2 shutout innings with 3 strikeouts before Steve Geltz, Grant Balfour, and Kevin Jepsen finished the game with 3.1 shutout innings combined. Some of them looked better than others–Balfour allowed two flyballs to the warning track–but even with Brad Boxberger unavailable, the bullpen came up huge in this nail-biter of a game.
Aside from Souza’s big 3-for-5 day, other notable performances for the Rays included Tim Beckham‘s sac fly, Logan Forsythe‘s 1-for-3 game with a walk and a stolen base, and the leadoff combination of Brandon Guyer and Kevin Kiermaier. Kevin Cash wasn’t afraid to pinch-hit Kiermaier for Guyer in the seventh inning, and the pair wound up combining to go 2 for 4 with a walk and a stolen base. Cash needs to maximize the contributions of every player on his roster, and he has done so quite well thus far.
Tomorrow, the Tampa Bay Rays are set to take on the Blue Jays once again in the third game of the four-game series between the two teams. The game is scheduled to start at 7:07 PM EST, but the Rays have not yet announced who their starting pitcher will be opposite Mark Buehrle.