Brendan McKay made his triumphant return to the mound on Friday, limiting the Blue Jays to just one hit, as the Tampa Bay Rays blanked Toronto, 5-0.
Tampa Bay enters play a season-best 25 games above .500 and winners of seven of the last eight contests. The Rays start the day a game ahead of Oakland for the top Wildcard spot (1-1/2 games in front of Cleveland) with a 79.1% chance of a playoff berth according to FanGraphs (an 88.2% chance according to Baseball Prospectus).
Brendan McKay struck out seven and allowed just one hit across 3-2/3 scoreless frames on 59 pitches (37 strikes, 63% strike rate). The 23-year-old didn’t pitch deeply enough to capture the win, yet he was impressive, fanning seven of the 12 batters he faced, and retiring nine consecutive batters before he exited the ballgame. The outing snaps a cold spell for the left-hander, although he is still 2-3 with a 5.03 ERA.
The only base runner McKay allowed was Randall Grichuk, who hit a two-out triple to right that Avisail Garcia overran near the wall. Yet Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded out to third to end the threat, beginning a stretch of 22 consecutive outs by the Blue Jays.
Meanwhile, the Rays took a lead in the opening inning against Clay Buchholz. Austin Meadows looped a one-out single to right, then scored on Avisail Garcia’s double to center field.
In the second inning, Willy Adames singled to right but was forced out on Kevin Kiermaier’s fielder’s choice. As they say, all is well that ends well — Mike Zunino followed with a 413-foot two-run blast to left, putting the Rays up by three.
It was the ninth home run for Zunino, and the seventh straight inning in which Tampa Bay had scored.
Tampa Bay continued to tack on runs in the fourth inning after Adames hit a one-out hustle double to left. The shortstop moved into third on a groundout then came home on a passed ball.
Peter Fairbanks, who was credited with his first big-league win, took over for McKay in the fourth inning and collected the next four outs on just 15 pitches with two punchouts. Andrew Kittredge followed with an efficient five-pitch (four strikes) sixth and a perfect seventh, collecting a pair of strikeouts.
Cole Sulser made his Major League debut in the eighth inning and threw a perfect frame on nine pitches (six strikes) — a three-pitch strikeout of Rowdy Tellez, a comebacker by Ian Drury on the very next pitch, and a pop-out to end the inning.
Tampa Bay was also able to tack on an insurance run in the bottom of the inning when Joey Wendle reached on an error, moved into third on Matt Duffy’s base hit, and came home on Meadows’ bullet of a base hit into center.
Sulser wasn’t nearly as dominant in the ninth inning though, walking Danny Jansen on four pitches, giving up a single to Anthony Alford, and walking Bo Bichette on a full count pitch to load the bases.
Seeing the potential for things to slip away, Kevin Cash called upon the services of Emilio Pagan, who quickly fell behind Teoscar Hernandez 2-0. Yet Pagan coaxed a popper to first, fanned Grichuk, and got Guerrero Jr. to pop out to left, ending the two-hit shutout.
Pagan collected his 19th save, while the team walked away with its 11th shutout of the season.
Game three of the four-game set will take place Saturday with Charlie Morton (14-6, 3.06 ERA) on the mound. He’ll pitch opposite of southpaw Anthony Kay, who will make his Major League debut.
Charlie Morton gave up one earned run on four hits and three walks with eight strikeouts across 5-1/3 innings against Cleveland on Sunday. Morton guided the Rays to a huge series sweep against Cleveland after he got blasted by the Astros in his previous outing. Morton yielded an RBI double in the second inning and found himself in a bit of a jam, although he was able to escape and finish the rest of his outing cleanly. He needed 108 pitches to get through just 5-1/3 innings, which isn’t the height of efficiency, yet the bullpen got the job done over the balance of the game. Morton now sports a 3.06 ERA and a 4.18 K/BB ratio over 170-1/3 innings. The right-hander is 0-1 with a 2.31 ERA in two starts against Toronto this season.
Anthony Kay boasts a low-90s fastball with sink and arm-side run. He can spot his heater to all four quadrants, working up and down to change the hitter’s eye level. He complements the fastball with an above-average low-to-mid-80s changeup with fade and tumble — although he has been known to telegraph the pitch, throwing it from a lower arm slot — and a curveball that sits in the upper-70s with slurvy 1-7 movement.
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.
Rays 9/7/19 Starting Lineup
- Garcia RF
- Pham DH
- Meadows LF
- Aguilar 1B
- Duffy 3B
- Kiermaier CF
- Adames SS
- Zunino C
- Robertson 2B
— Tyler Glasnow will take the hill, for the first time since May, in the series finale.
I’m excited. I’ve been preparing for this. I think I’ll feel well.— Tyler Glasnow
The Rays, however, will be careful with Glasnow, who will continue to get built up over the next couple of weeks. The right-hander will be limited to just two or three innings in his return.
We are not in a position right now where we can just guarantee pitches for anybody, so we’ll monitor how he’s feeling, how the ball is coming out. Hopefully, he can kind of harness it and get some command early.— Kevin Cash
Glasnow has thrown multiple bullpen sessions over the last few weeks and appeared in a couple of rehab games, including a 33-pitch outing for Triple-A Durham on Monday. He threw one last bullpen session in front of pitching coach Kyle Snyder on Thursday, when all of the parties involved decided that the right-hander was ready to return.
— Blake Snell is also getting closer to returning to the mound. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner has progressed well after undergoing surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow, and he is scheduled to make his first rehab outing for Durham on Saturday. If that goes well, the Rays could consider inserting Snell back into the rotation.
— Yonny Chirinos threw a bullpen session (his first since being placed on the IL) on Thursday, and everything went well. Chirinos is scheduled for a second bullpen session on Sunday and is expected to throw live batting practice over the next week against hitters.
— Eric Sogard exited Friday’s game with a right foot contusion after he fouled a ball off the top of his foot. Sogard underwent tests on the foot, and X-Rays came back negative.
— Tommy Pham, who left Thursday’s game with right forearm tightness, was checked out by a doctor, and a mild flexor strain was revealed. The hope is that Pham can return to the lineup on Saturday against Toronto, albeit in a DH role.