Blue Jays drop opener Rays in a crucial 4-game series between playoff contenders

Wander Franco had three RBIs, Jonathan Aranda hit a homer and the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 10-5 Thursday night in the opener of a great four-game series between playoff contenders.

Randy Arozarena had three hits and drove in two carries for the Rays, who came off a three-game streak in which they were swept by Houston and scored just two goals.

“Baseball is weird. I saw a result tonight that was a little different,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “They’re doing a good job flushing them, coming ’til the next day, ready to get to work, get better and find a way to win.”

Tampa Bay (83-67) drew in one game against Toronto (84-66) for the top AL wildcard spot. Seattle (82-67) is third, four games ahead of Baltimore.

Whit Merrifield scored twice for Toronto and Teoscar Hernandez also went deep. Jose Berrios (11-6) was tagged for six carries and seven hits in two innings.

“It was just a little weird going forward and not throwing the guys away,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said of Berrios, who threw 74 pitches.

Toronto has lost three of four after winning 13 of 17 earlier in September.

Manuel Margot’s infield RBI single and run-scoring hits from Franco and Arozarena gave the Rays a 6-3 lead in the second.

Franco added a two-run double during the Rays’ fourth run.

“I think we made the right adjustments today,” Franco said through a translator. “We played really well and hopefully we can continue with that energy.”

Cash opted to have Ryan Yarbrough (3-8) replace opener JT Chargois to start the second and hit two hitters with some career success against the left-hander.

Hernandez hit a leadoff homer, his seventh in 34 at-bats against Yarbrough. An out later, Merrifield connected it with his solo shot at 3, giving him seven hits, including two home runs, in nine at-bats against the left-hander.

Merrifield added a two-run drive in the ninth.

Yarbrough left the third with a right slant load and will “most likely go to the IL,” according to Cash.

Garrett Cleavinger replaced Yarbrough and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings before Shawn Armstrong, Brooks Raley and Colin Poche came together for three hitless innings.

Aranda homed on the second pitch from Berrios in a three-run first run. Arozarena hit a run-scoring double, went for third with a toss to the plate and hit on a wild pitch.

Toronto’s Bo Bichette hit a double in the first heat that gave him 24 RBIs in 21 games in September.

Ray’s Radio play-by-play man Andy Freed caught a foulball from Toronto’s George Springer in a net that broadcasters keep in their box during the seventh game.

The Blue Jays field right-hander Alek Manoah (14-7. 2.40 ERA) to start the final game of the regular season or a possible wildcard opener.

Schneider would use Manoah when it came to home field advantage.

“I think there’s nothing better than playing in front of our fans in the postseason after the last few years [impacted by the pandemic]”Schneider said. “We weren’t there, what the world and the country was going through.”

Ray’s right-hander Kevin Herget, who made his big-league debut on Sept. 13 after a decade in the minors, was earmarked for action.

Infielder/outfielder Miles Mastrobuoni was selected by Triple-A Durham after seven years in the minors and a few weeks after his brother’s wedding.

“It’s been an eventful month for our family,” Mastrobuoni said.

Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (left hamstring) does baseball activities and may soon start running. Infielder Santiago Espinal (left diagonal) went to the IL.

Ray’s ace Shane McClanahan (neck stiffness) had a bullpen session and is scheduled to start Sunday.

Rays’ Jeffrey Springs (9-4) starts Friday night. Toronto has not announced its starter.

Leave a Comment