Blake Snell was fantastic in the first game of the Wildcard series against Toronto, while Manuel Margot hit his first-ever playoff home run. Sprinkle in some excellent defense and all that set the tone in the Tampa Bay Rays’ 3-1 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
Blake Snell matched the franchise postseason record for the most strikeouts in a start over his 5-2/3 innings of work. Across the first five frames, the southpaw allowed just a two-out walk to Randal Grichuk the first inning and a one-out free pass to Teoscar Hernandez in the fifth that was erased on a double-play ground ball off the bat of Jonathan Villar. Snell struck out eight over that stretch.
Yet, Alejandro Kirk led off the sixth inning by lining a fastball to right for the first hit off Snell. Then number nine hitter Danny Jansen followed fly-ball out to right during a nine-pitch at-bat. Cavan Biggio struck out which ended up being the last batter Snell would face. He threw 82 pitches (48 strikes, 59% strike rate, 38% SwStr%) during his outing. Snell’s exit had more to do with an offense that struggled to put runs on the board, than anything having to do with the hurler’s efficacy or lack thereof. Had the Rays put more than one run on the board through the front six, Cash likely wouldn’t have turned to the bullpen. But that’s all speculation.
At any rate, Diego Castillo entered the contest and got Bo Bichette to ground into a 4-6 fielder’s choice to end the frame.
The one run of support for Snell came in the fourth inning against right-hander Robbie Ray, who followed opener Matt Shoemaker, on the bump. Randy Arozarena greeted him with a triple to the right-center gap (his first big league triple). After Nate Lowe got rung up, Willy Adames worked a free pass. As ball four bounded away from Danny Jansen, Arozarena scored on what was ruled a wild pitch. That was the only run against Ray over his three innings of work.
Castillo took the mound again in the seventh and quickly got the first out. Yet with one out the right-hander hit Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a pitch that ran in on the slugger. After Lourdes Gurriel Jr. singled on the eight-pitch of the at-bat, Rays skipper Kevin Cash called upon right-hander Nick Anderson. Teoscar Hernandez worked a seven-pitch at-bat before he popped out to first. Charlie Montoyo inexplicably pinch-hit Joe Panik (not the left-handed-hitting Rowdy Tellez) for Jonathan Villar, and the former Giant lined to short on an 0-2 pitch as Willy Adames ranged to his right, ending the threat.
With a need to extend the lead, Tampa Bay immediately answered in the bottom of the seventh. Joey Wendle walked against A.J. Cole with one out before Manuel Margot drilled a cutter into section 143 in left-field, his first-ever postseason home run, and his first-ever long ball at the Trop, giving Tampa Bay a three-run advantage.
Anderson took the mound again in the eighth and found himself in uncharted territory. After he got the first out of the frame, Tellez hit a pinch-hit flair to center, then went to third on Biggio’s double to right. Tellez eventually scored on Bo Bichette’s sacrifice fly to right, making it a two-run contest. But Grichuk lined to short, with Adames making another great play on the backhand side, keeping Tampa Bay in front. Anderson threw 29 total pitches (20 strikes, 69% strike rate) — more pitches than any previous 2020 outing. The right-hander did not strike out any batters and coaxed six swings-and-misses, which is concerning for a high-leverage reliever that managed a 44% strikeout rate all season. He likely will not be available on Wednesday.
Finally, Pete Fairbanks took over in the ninth and earned the first save of the postseason … which, ironically, was his first save of 2020. Fairbanks worked around a Gurriel Jr. double to left, by punching out Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez, who struck out looking after being ahead in the count 3-0. And even though Gurriel Jr. moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch, Panik popped out to third, which ended the ball game.
The New What Next
The Rays will look to punch their ticket to the next round on Wednesday with Tyler Glasnow (5-1, 4.08 ERA) on the mound. He will start opposite Toronto ace Hyun-jin Ryu (5-2, 2.69 ERA).
Tyler Glasnow allowed two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out eight over six innings against the Mets on Wednesday. Glasnow allowed solo shots to Andres Gimenez and Dominic Smith, but he was otherwise dominant. The right-hander has won three consecutive starts and five of his last six outings. He enters the postseason with a respectable 4.08 ERA, 3.66 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 4.14 K/BB across 57-1/3 innings this season. Glasnow is 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA in six career starts against Toronto.
Hyun-jin Ryu allowed five hits and two walks over seven scoreless innings on Thursday against the Yankees. He struck out four. The veteran left-hander came through with another dazzling effort to clinch a playoff berth for Toronto. Ryu heads into the postseason with a 2.69 ERA and a 4.24 K/BB through 67 innings. Ryu is 0-0 with a 3.72 ERA in two starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchup: Yoshi Tsutsugo (1-4, HR)
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup upon is below.
Rays 9/30/20 Starting Lineup
- Brosseau 1B
- Arozarena DH
- B Lowe 2B
- Diaz 3B
- Margot LF
- Renfroe RF
- Adames SS
- Kiermaier CF
— From Neil’s (Solondz) lips to your ears, “If you count the postseason, 34 of Tampa Bay’s 61 games have now been decided by one or two runs, and during that period the Rays are 24–10. Of the 11 games between the Rays and Blue Jays, nine of 11 have been decided by one or two runs.”