The Toronto Blue Jays will hope to hit the ground running when they open up a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Thursday night. The Jays bats fell silent during their two-game series against the Baltimore Orioles to start the season. Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and Jose Bautista managed just one hit in 24 combined at-bats, and the Jays mustered a measly three runs in their first two games. Their 3-1 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday night marked the first time since 2013 that the Jays dropped their first two games of the season.
Blue Jays Need Momentum Shift Against Rays
Toronto came close to winning both games; they lost the first one via a Mark Trumbo home run in the bottom of the 11th inning on Monday night, and Steve Pearce grounded into a double play on Wednesday with the bases loaded to give the Orioles their second straight victory.
The most exciting moment for Jays fans was Kevin Pillar‘s highlight-reel catch on Wednesday night. After Adam Jones smacked a two-run homer to left field to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead, Manny Machado drilled one to dead center. It looked like a home run, but Pillar has a knack for making highlight-reel catches. He didn’t disappoint. Pillar jumped backwards and robbed Machado, saving J.A. Happ from allowing back-to-back home runs.
Marco Estrada and Happ both had respectable starts against the Orioles. Estrada gave up five hits over six innings, and Happ gave up five hits and two home runs over seven innings. The Blue Jays bullpen pitched a combined 5.2 innings and surrendered four hits, including Trumbo’s walk off home-run off Jason Grilli.
The Birds Fly South
The Jays head into Tampa on Thursday night looking to knock off the Rays, who went 2-1 against the Yankees at home to open up the season. The Rays offense managed to score eleven runs over three games, with Steven Souza, Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, Logan Morrison, and Evan Longoria each recording three or more hits during the series. The Rays bullpen performed well in relief for starters Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Jake Odorizzi. The Rays pen combined to give up one earned run over eight and a third innings, with closer Alex Colome picking up two saves in the series.
It will be a battle of the youngsters at the Trop this evening, as 25-year-old Marcus Stroman will take the mound for the Blue Jays against 24-year-old Blake Snell. Stroman is fresh off winning tournament MVP for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, giving up only one hit in six innings pitched in the championship game against Puerto Rico. Snell will make the first start of his sophomore season after finishing Spring Training with an ERA of 5.87 over 23 innings. Snell struck out 98 batters over 89 innings last season for the Rays, so he could present a challenge for the Jays, who struck out 19 times in their two games against the Orioles. First pitch will be at 7:10 p.m. in Tropicana Field.