Yandy Díaz got the Rays on the board with a fifth-inning three-run homer off Robbie Ray. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

Shane Baz turned in an impressive big-league debut on Monday, while Tampa Bay rallied in the fifth inning, thus chasing Robbie Ray, as the Rays defeated the Blue Jays, 6-4.

At 93-58 on the season, the Rays ended their day of play 35-games above .500, moving a step closer to a postseason berth. They have a magic number of three for a playoff berth, and five for the American League East title.

Shane Baz looked like he belonged on Monday, holding Toronto to two solo home runs over five innings, but relinquishing nothing else. The right-hander struck out two of the first three batters he faced in a perfect first inning and ended up with five punchouts on the night.

Leaning primarily on a mid-to-upper 90’s four-seam fastball and slider combination, while sprinkling 15 curveballs, Baz was both whiffy and efficient against one of the best hitting teams in baseball, throwing 65 pitches overall (51 strikes, 78% strike rate, 15 whiffs, 23% SwStr%). All told, Baz retired 15 of the 17 batters he faced.

Down by a pair in the fifth inning, Tampa Bay finally broke through against Robbie Ray. Taylor Walls sparked the rally by hitting a one-out bullet to third that hit third base umpire Nic Lentz, yet stayed on the infield for a single. After Ray wild-pitched Walls up to second, Kevin Kiermaier hit a chopper to third that he was able to beat out for an infield single — putting runners on the corners and ending the team’s 0-for-16 stretch with runners in scoring position. The next man up, Yandy Díaz, fell behind 1-2 before he belted a 93 mph waist-high fastball to left to not only put the Rays on the board but to give them the go-ahead lead.

After chasing Ray in the fifth, Tampa Bay continued to tack on insurance runs against the Blue Jays’ bullpen. They would need all those runs.

In the sixth inning, Joey Wendle was hit by a pitch then moved up to second on a groundout. Kiermaier followed by chopping a ball toward third. Jake Lamb quickly fielded the play and rushed his throw to (and away from) first, consequently allowing Wendle to score. Kiermaier also tried to score, subsequently blowing through Rodney Linares’ stop sign at third and getting thrown out at home.

Then in the seventh inning, Díaz singled to center against Nate Pearson and moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. He came home on Margot’s two-out base hit to center, putting Tampa Bay up by three.

Finally, Wendle capped the scoring for Tampa Bay by hammering a solo shot to right off fellow southpaw, Ryan Borucki, in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Meanwhile, all was quiet on the mound through the eighth inning. Collin McHugh followed Baz and threw two perfect frames with a pair of punchouts, while J.P. Feyereisen worked a hitless eighth with a pair of strikeouts.

Yet, things got interesting an inning later with David Robertson on the bump. The right-hander allowed a bloop double to right off the bat of George Springer before Marcus Semien homered to left-center, making it a two-run contest. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. walked, and Kevin Cash had seen enough of Robertson.

Enter J.T. Chargois.

Chargois got Bo Bichette to pop out into shallow right for the first out of the inning. Teoscar Hernández struck out, yet Danny Jansen singled to center on a 1-2 fastball that the right-hander left up in the zone. As if things weren’t ugly enough, Lourdes Gourriel Jr. fell behind 1-2, worked the count full, then earned a base loading free pass.

Enter Dietrich Enns.

As they say ” the third time’s a charm,” and Enns entered to face pinch hitter Breyvic Valera as the third pitcher of the inning. After he got ahead of the count 3-0, Enns threw four consecutive strikes (including a foul ball) to Valera, who struck out looking to end the game.

THE NEW WHAT NEXT

Drew Rasmussen (3-1, 3.00 ERA) will get the start Tuesday, pitching opposite of Alek Manoah (6-2, 3.39 ERA).

Drew Rasmussen got the start against Toronto on Tuesday and pitched five scoreless frames. The right-hander surrendered two hits and one walk while striking out three. Rasmussen was able to limit the damage to just three baserunners, none of which got past second base.

He only threw 52 pitches (35 strikes, 67% strike rate) in the contest as the team continues to limit his innings likely due to the fact that he leans heavily on a two-pitch mix. Even so, Rasmussen attacked the strike zone, and challenged hitters with high-octane fastballs, giving the Rays a chance to win. Since the All-Star Break, Rasmussen has posted a 2.04 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and a 3.5 K/BB.

Alek Manoah gave up one hit over eight scoreless innings against the Rays on Monday. He struck out 10 without walking a batter. The rookie right-hander retired 14 consecutive batters to start the game before Joey Wendle lined a two-out single in the fifth inning, a knock Manoah requited by plunking Wendle in the eighth inning — the only other baserunner he allowed all night. That hit by pitch may have factored into Charlie Montoyo’s decision to pull the right-hander after 97 pitches (62 strikes, 64% strike rate) rather than letting Manoah go for a complete game shutout. On the season he maintains a 3.39 ERA and a 3.89 FIP, with a 1.03 WHIP, and a 3.29 K/BB through 93 innings. Key Matchups: Francisco Mejía (1-4, 2B), Joey Wendle (2-7)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.

RAYS 9/21/21 STARTING LINEUP

  1. B. Lowe 2B
  2. Choi 1B
  3. Díaz 3B
  4. Meadows DH
  5. Wendle SS
  6. Margot LF
  7. Kiermaier CF
  8. Zunino C
  9. Phillips RF
  10. Rasmussen RHP

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