Blake Snell walked a pair of runners in front of a Kendrys Morales’ third inning grand slam, as the Tampa Bay Rays fell to the Blue Jays, 5-2.
With two outs and one on, the southpaw walked Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista on five pitches each. Morales, who stepped into the box next, fell behind 0-1 in the count before crushing a 95-mph four-seam fastball (on the inner third of the plate) 444 feet into the left-field stands.
Per Statcast, the grand slam ball had an exit velocity of 108.8 mph with a 26 degree launch angle. Morales became the ninth player in team history to hit a grand slam for his first home run in a Jays uniform.
Snell was able to settle down and throw 3-1/3 scoreless innings, however, the damage was done. He gave up one last run in the seventh after Russell Martin walked, and moved to third on Justin Smoak’s single to right-center. Two batters later, Darwin Barney laid down a safety squeeze bunt single toward first, extending the lead.
Snell gave up five runs and four hits in 6-2/3 innings. The lefty struck out five and walked five. He told Alex Cordry (Fox Sports Sun) that he has to do a better job of commanding every individual pitch:
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 7, 2017
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay was unable to figure out Marcus Stroman, this in spite of a 3-4 record, and 4.84 ERA. The diminutive right-hander struck out five of his first seven batters. Stroman also kept the ball on the ground, coxing three double plays over his 6-1/3 innings of work.
The Rays were finally able to break through in the seventh inning, after Evan Longoria, Brad Miller and Logan Morrison singled to plate a run and chase Stroman. Yet, Joe Biagini kept Tampa Bay from scoring any further by getting Tim Beckham to ground into the Rays’ fourth double play on the night.
The Rays rallied against Joe Smith in the ninth when Brad Miller walked with one out, and moved to third on a double to left-field by Steven Souza Jr. — his third hit of the night. And even though closer Jason Grilli entered the game and uncorked a wild pitch, scoring the second Rays run, both Logan Morrison and pitch-hitter Rickie Weeks Jr. struck out swinging to end the threat and the game.
If there is a bright side, Tommy Hunter and Danny Farquhar followed 2-1/3 scoreless innings. The bullpen has now given up just one run in 10-2/3 innings over the last four games.
The New What Next
Matt Andriese will make his first start of the season Friday night, opposite of left-hander Francisco Liriano.
Andriese begins the season as the number five starter, after shuffling between the starting rotation and the bullpen last season. Andriese, who didn’t have the strongest of springs, went 3-4 with a 4.18 ERA at Tropicana Field in 2016, and is 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in seven career appearances against Toronto.
Liriano is coming off a dominant spring that saw a lot of whiffs and fewer walks than previous years. Yet the southpaw must continue to work on command if he is to be successful as he enters the final season of his contract. Liriano had an ERA of 2.92/3.98 FIP in 8 starts (10 total games) with Toronto last season. He has been the model of inconsistency, and that inconsistency could bode well for the Rays on Friday. Key matchups: Peter Bourjos (9-31, 3 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Corey Dickerson (1-2, RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (6-19, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Brad Miller (1-3, HR, RBI).
You can read more about the series in our Rays/Jays series preview, and I’ll post the starting lineup upon availability.
Rays 4/7/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr. RF
Weeks Jr. 1B
— Outfielder Colby Rasmus made his first rehab start in Port Charlotte on Thursday.
— Charlotte StoneCrabs (@StoneCrabs) April 7, 2017
Rasmus went 0-3 with an RBI and three productive outs. He also collided with center fielder Ryan Boldt in the top of the first inning, but both appear to be okay.
— Trevor DeGroot (@TrevorDeGroot) April 7, 2017
He told Bryan Levine (Charlotte Sun) he felt good in spite the collision.
— Bryan Levine (@Bryan_Levine) April 7, 2017