The Blue Jays are in the postseason and JFtC has everything you need to know from Game 1 of the Wild Card series vs the Rays
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Toronto Blue Jays: 1 R, 4 H, 0 E
Tampa Bay Rays: 3 R, 4 H, 0 E
The Toronto Blue Jays have made it to the postseason. It took a pandemic shortened, expanded playoff season, but the joy of seeing Canada’s team in the playoffs is still special. But, before we could really enjoy the experience, manager, Charlie Montoyo set his rotation for the series:
G1 • Matt Shoemaker
G2 • Hyun Jin Ryu
G3 • Taijuan Walker
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) September 28, 2020
This sent us all into a frenzy. Matt Shoemaker in Game 1? Really? So, before the series even started, we were left wondering if there would be any success in an already seemingly impossible series. Then, game time comes and Shoemaker was dealing. Through 3 innings, he’d struck out two and only given up 2 bloopers. It was as good as we’ve seen him. For a minute, it felt as though we could breathe and the odd decision might pay off.
Enter Montoyo. Apparently, how Shoe was pitching didn’t matter as there was a plan. At the end of 3 innings, Montoyo decided to pull his starter and put Robbie Ray in to the game. It was such an odd decision since Shoemaker was breezing through the Rays’ lineup. His final line: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 0 ER, 35 pitches, 27 for strikes.
Ray entered the game and gave up a leadoff triple to Randy Arozarena, who would come around to score on a wild pitch. Considering how well Blake Snell was pitching, one run felt a tad too many. Snell wouldn’t give up his first hit until the top of the 6th inning when 21 year old DH, Alejandro Kirk took an offspeed pitch to opposite field for a single. The Rays starter would go 6 and 2/3 innings on a rather easy 82 pitches. It was Snell’s brilliance that made Montoyo’s decisions look questionable.
Despite the triple and a wild pitch, Ray pitched three solid innings of his own. He would strike out 5 on 60 pitches. His line: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. If the Blue Jays hitters could have put together a couple runs, the manager’s pitching decisions would have looked very intelligent with his pitchers dealing all night.
With Snell out of the game, and Diego Castillo on the mound in the top of the 7th, the game looked like it was rapidly approaching a loss of Toronto. After a Randal Grichuk struck out, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.was grazed by an inside fastball. With him on first base, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.found himself down 0-2 to Castillo. But, he fought all the way back to lace a 3-2 single and for the first time all night, the good guys had something going. But, it did not last. Jonathan Villar was lifted for pinch hitter, Joe Panik who lined out to short.
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) September 29, 2020
This was, once again, a decision that didn’t make a lot of sense. With right handed Nick Anderson on the mound, opting for Panik was odd since Rowdy Tellez was sitting on the bench. If he is healthy enough to be on the playoff roster, why not use him in that situation? Runners on first and second with two outs would have been a great time for a lefty bat with impact potential. But, alas…
A.J. Cole came in to pitch the 7th inning and walked Joey Wendle and the next batter, Manuel Margot made it hurt. He laced a line drive home run to left field to put the Rays up 3-0 and remove Cole from the game. Ryan Borucki entered with 1 out in the 7th and ended that frustrating inning.
Tellez would be brought in to hit in the 8th inning for Danny Jansen (Reese McGuire would take over behind the plate), which means that he was healthy enough to hit for Panik an inning earlier. And, of course, after a Kirk pop up, Tellez pokes a single to center. Cavan Biggio must have felt a spark because on the very next pitch, he smoked a double off the right field wall to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out for Bo Bichette. Flo sent a fly ball to right to record a sacrifice fly and Toronto’s first run of the game.
Thomas Hatch pitched a very clean bottom half of the 8th inning, which brought the Blue Jays to their last chance to salvage the game. Being down by 2 runs in the 9th is less than ideal, but with Vlad Jr, Gurriel Jr and Teoscar Hernandez due up, it allowed for a little glimmer of hope…a little.
That hope, as little as it was took a hit when Vladdy struck out on a check swing. Gurriel hit a double to left field, which brought the tying run to the plate in Hernandez, who watched a 3-2 slider go right down the heart of the plate. After two 100 mph fastballs, that slider must have looked absolutely foreign. Gurriel would advance to third on a wild pitch. Panik stepped to the plate with two out and he looped a little floater to the third baseman.
Ball game over. Back in February, we never thought the Blue Jays would be a post season team, that 2020 would be a bridge year to better seasons. Now, Toronto finds themselves down 1-0 in the best of three series. IF there is any silver lining to be found, Hyun Jin Ryu starts Game 2 in a must win situation. So, there’s that…
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.