Article #3 from Travis
On April 23rd the Rays began a 9 game home stand versus the Blue Jays, Athletics, and Royals. After coming off a 9-1 road trip that marked the best winning percentage, most wins in club history and included sweeps of the Orioles and Red Sox. The Rays will not play another road game until May 4th at Seattle. In this article I will focus mainly on a recap of the series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Last year the Rays went 14-4 against the Blue Jays, the second-most wins over an opponent in one season in club history. The Rays won all 6 series against the Jays last season including two sweeps at Tropicana Field and have not lost a series to the Blue Jays since they were swept in Toronto Sep 5-7, 2008.
Game 1: April 23rd, 2010
Score – (Blue Jays 6 – Rays 5)
The Blue Jays snapped a 5-game losing streak at Tropicana Field dating back to August 15, 2009. Matt Garza took the loss and was tagged for four runs, all of which were earned during a 41 pitch 1st inning. The 4 runs in the 1st equaled the total number of runs Garza allowed in his first 3 starts combined. This also matched the total number of runs Garza allowed in 28.1 innings (4 starts) against the Blue Jays in 2009 when he went 3-0 with a 1.27 ERA. The positive for the Rays in this game was Gabe Kapler, Willy Aybar, and the Bullpen. Kapler homered, walked and scored 2 runs off Brett Cecil. Aybar who returned from a 2 game absence due to the birth of his son, homered in his second at bat and recorded his first multi-hit game of the season. Surprisingly the Rays bullpen which used a combination of 5 relievers pitched 4 strong innings, giving up 3 hits, 1 earned run, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts. The Blue Jays starting pitcher Brett Cecil was making his first big league start of 2010. Cecil got the win and struck out 8 Rays, one shy of his career high of 9. Of the 4 runs Cecil gave up; 2 of them was on the home run to the last batter he faced, Kapler. The other 2 runs came when Cecil gave up the solo shot to Aybar and double to Zobrist. For the Blue Jays, Jose Bautista recorded a career high 3 doubles. Vernon Wells went 2-5 with an RBI and Kevin Gregg converted his 5th save (in 5 opportunities), and his first of longer than 1 inning pitched.
Rays manager Joe Madden said; “Matt had a hard time at the beginning of the game. His stuff looked ok just really the lack of command, the couple walks hurt us big time in the first (inning). He could never get into a good tempo, I thought. It was kind of a slow pace to the game for him and just overall command was not there. He’s been pitching so well, it’s kind of difficult to maintain that for an entire season. It’s just one of those days.” (On the team’s comeback attempt) “I loved the way we stayed in that game. The bullpen did a great job keeping it in check. At bats were really high quality towards the end of the game and they just held on. But I loved the fight. We didn’t get in until like four in the morning last night. I know a lot of guys were not 100 percent in regards to getting their rest, but I liked the way we came back.”
Game 2: April 24th, 2010
Score – (Blue Jays 3 – Rays 9)
Jeff Niemann recorded his 3rd straight quality start, but left the game trailing 3-2 and did not factor into the decision. Niemann had 8 strikeouts, retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced, 6 via strikeout, and only threw 37 pitches over the first 4 innings. He lasted 6.2 innings giving up 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts and a 3.27 ERA. Niemann held right-handed hitters to 1-for-15 in the game, with Aaron Hill’s single the lone hit. Meanwhile, opposing lefties went 4-11. He allowed 2 home runs. A solo shot to Lyle Overbay and a 2 run shot to Adam Lind. Niemann had gone 13 straight starts without allowing 2 HR. His last multi-HR game was Aug 7, 2009 vs. SEA. The star of the night for the Rays was John Jaso. Jaso hit the first home run of his career, a 2 run shot of Romero. Jaso had a career high 3 RBI and reached base in 3-4 plate appearances. The Rays bullpen also had another good outing combining for 2.1 shutout innings to finish off the Blue Jays. Dan Wheeler was credited with the win. With the loss, Toronto had their 6 game road win streak come to an end. It was the longest such road streak for Toronto since 2003. Ricky Romero recorded his 4th quality start of the season. Romero pitched 7 strong innings, with 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts, and a 3.27 ERA. Scott Downs, not Romero took the loss. Adam Lind went 2-4 with a 2 run homer and double. Lyle Overbay hit his first homer of the season and went 2-3 to break an 8-64 slump.
Rays Manager Joe Madden (on the game & Niemann) “The relief pitchers did a great job. I think Jeff was very good. He gave up two home runs and that was it. He had really good stuff, great angle, and good fastball. I was really pleased with him. Offensively, we kept grinding, kept grinding, kept grinding and eventually we got all those runs. We got some really good at bats when it was really critical. That speaks volumes. The whole group, from day 1, their focus has been outstanding, the effort has been outstanding. We talked about finishing games well, and dominating late.”
Game 3: April 25th, 2010
Score – (Blue Jays 0 – Rays 6)
The Rays win their 9th straight home series against the Blue Jays and improve to 59-44 (.573) all time vs. Toronto at Tropicana Field. Over the past five games the Rays have outscored their opponent 42-11 and have hit .304 (52-171), with 34 walks against 39 strikeouts. David Price got the win all while throwing his first career complete game. Price went the distance giving up 4 hits, 0 earned runs, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts, and a 2.20 ERA. This was only the 5th closed game by a LHP in Rays history, and the first since Scott Kazmir did it on July 3, 2006 vs. Boston. The 9 strikeouts are a season high for Price, and match a season high for a Rays starter. Price threw 70.4 percent of his pitches for strikes and has held opponents to a .202 batting average this season. John Jaso picked right up where he left off the night before. He went 2-3 with 2 RBI and a 2 run single in the 5th that broke a scoreless tie. In the series Jaso went 3-7 with 1 homer and Evan Longoria went 6-11 with 3 multi hit games. For Toronto, Brandon Morrow went 6 innings, with 3 hits, 2 earned runs, 6 walks, 8 strikeouts, and a 6.14 ERA. Morrow did not allow a hit until B.J. Upton doubled in the 5th inning. Morrow took the loss and falls to 1-3 on the season.
Rays winning pitcher David Price said; “It was a good day. We played great defense. They got me some runs. Everything felt pretty good today. My defense made some great plays behind me and it makes it a lot easier whenever that happens.” (On his first career complete game shutout) “I’ve been there, I’ve done that now. I’ve got that first little taste in my mouth and I want more.” (On the team’s success) “We’re playing well. Everybody else knows that too. We’re going to get everybody else’s best from here on out. It’s going to make it tougher on us, but I think we can handle it.”