The Tampa Bay Rays rallied for a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday, subsequently walking away with a 4-3 walk off victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. It was just their third walkoff win of the year. At 79-82 on the season, and with a game left to play, the Rays look to end the 2015 campaign Sunday afternoon with 80 wins. Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when John Jaso hit a leadoff homer to right field, his fifth of the season.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 3, 2015
It also gave the Rays 15 players with at least five homers, tying an MLB record.
Toronto countered with a run in the third, tying the game. Chad Pennington and Ben Revere hit back-to-back singles to start the inning against RHP Chris Archer. Josh Donaldson went down swinging on three pitches, but Jose Bautista came up with an RBI single to left, his 114th RBI of the year. Yet Archer limited the damage and retired the next two batters. He didn’t allow another runner past first for the remainder of his start.
Archer and manager Kevin Cash came to consensus in the bottom of the fifth inning, it was best for the righty to end his season right then and there, just 72 pitches into his outing. Archer insisted that he didn’t feel anything wrong, rather: “I just didn’t feel like myself.”
Archer conceded that he felt some fatigue going into his start, stemming from a career-high workload of 207 innings. When the hurler told the staff he’d had enough Cash made the decision to get him out of the game.
I told them how I felt, and we made the decision that there was really no reason to continue to push it, Archer said. I definitely gave the team all I had this season. … I wanted to pitch deeper, but bigger picture, there was no point if I feel tired at all to push it at this point. … Just general arm fatigue, nothing crazy.
Archer allowed just one run on five hits over his five innings, finishing the season with a 12-13 record,and a 3.23 ERA/2.91 FIP, racking up a single season franchise best 252 strikeouts.
Toronto took the lead in the sixth inning off reliever Brandon Gomes. Gomes took the mound with the game tied at one and hit Jose Bautista with a 1-2 slider to start the frame. Five pitches later, the ever dangerous Edwin Encarnacion lined a two-run homer to left (his 39th of the season) giving the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead. The Rays refused to roll over and play dead in the seventh inning, however, and the team drew within a run when Asdrubal Cabrera homered to right, his 15th of the season.
It was the first hit off starter Marco Estrada since Jaso’s first inning blast. Before the homer, the righty retired 14 consecutive batters and 17 of 18.
The good guys kept the game within a run thanks to scoreless relief work by CJ Riefenhauser, Steve Geltz, Jake McGee and Alex Colome. A side note, McGee averaged 92.6 mph (topping out at 94.7 mph) with his fastball ― down four mph from his average velocity. It’s hard to say whether this was an anomaly due to sample size, or if there’s something there.
Finally in the ninth, Tampa Bay did something rare and unusual: the team walked it off against the Blue Jays’ plus closer, Roberto Osuna. Grady Sizemore led off the inning with a double to left-center. However, Evan Longoria reached for an outside fastball and popped out to first, and Cabrera went down looking after getting ahead 3-0. Steven Souza Jr. and James Loney worked a pair of walks, loading the bases for Tim Beckham, who was playing second for the injured Logan Forsythe. Beckham to the first pitch ― a fastball over the other third of the plate ― for a strike, then lined a two-run single to left for the win.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 4, 2015
Felt good to get the hit, Beckham said after the game. The past couple of days I haven’t felt myself at the plate. I just wanted to zero in, and it felt good to be put in a situation like that, to challenge myself when I’m struggling.
The New What Next
This is it my friends, the final game of a rather interesting season for Tampa Bay. Matt Moore (2-4, 5.84 ERA) will get the start for the Rays on Sunday, opposite of either Mark Buehrle or Drew Hutchison. Moore is trending upward after pitching into the seventh inning in three consecutive starts. Prior to that stretch, he had gone five innings or fewer in his first eight starts of the season. Toronto has yet to officially announce a starter for the game, but if left-hander Mark Buehrle is up for it, he’ll get the ball for two innings. Buehrle tossed 6-2/3 innings on Friday night against Tampa Bay, which left him two innings shy of reaching 200 innings for the 15th consecutive year. If Buehrle isn’t physically capable of doing that, then the outing will go to RHP Drew Hutchison. You can read more about Moore in our series preview.
Rays 10/4/15 Starting Lineup
― Kevin Kiermaier left the game after feeling back tightness during his eighth inning at-bat. He is not expected to play in today’s finale.
― Logan Forsythe said his right foot remained too sore to play Saturday, after being hit by a pitch on Tuesday. He wouldn’t rule out playing this afternoon.
― Alex Cobb took a big step in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery on Saturday when he got to throw for the first time. The righty made 20 tosses on flat ground with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield. “It was fun,” Cobb said. “I couldn’t wait.”
― Jake McGee made his 297th appearance for Tampa Bay, surpassing Joel Peralta’s team record.
― The Rays improved to 46-48 in their MLB-most 94th game decided by two or fewer runs.