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AL East

Rays Recap: Missed Chances Costly in Opener

The Tampa Bay Rays fell 6-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night. It was a night of missed opportunities and and a subpar outing from their veteran ace.

Morton unlucky: The middle innings decided this ballgame. Charlie Morton actually pitched better than his box score would indicate. He was the victim of a tight strike zone from home plate umpire Joe West and several soft singles in the fourth and fifth inning. The final blow was delivered when Cavan Biggio blasted a three-run homer to right to put the Blue Jays ahead 6-1 in the fifth inning. Biggio also started a three-run rally in the fourth when he led off with a bunt single. From there, Morton wasn’t quite as precise as he was in the first three innings and Toronto put together six consecutive productive at-bats after Biggio’s bunt, though none resulted in extra base hits. In fact, Biggio’s homer in the fifth was the only extra base hit Morton allowed in his 4-plus innings. I mentioned in the series preview that the Blue Jays would have to adjust their approach to succeed offensively, and they did exactly that in game one.

High-RISP, Low-Reward: The Rays finished the game 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They had several high-percentage scoring opportunities to make a comeback, but could not get over the hump. Kevin Kiermaier struck out with two runners on in the fourth with the Rays down 3-1. After Yoshi Tsutsugo homered off Hyun-Jin-Ryu to cut the deficit to 6-3 in the fifth, they had two more runners reach base only to see Sal Romano strike out Brandon Lowe looking for the third out. Their best chance came in the eighth inning though as Jays setup man Rafael Dolis was wild with his command. Willy Adames‘ RBI single made the score 6-4. The Rays had runners on first and second with nobody out and then the bases loaded with one out and could not score again. Yandy Diaz hit a first pitch popup to second and Dolis got Hunter Renfroe looking at strike three to end the inning. The last opportunity was in the game’s final at-bat as Lowe represented the tying run and struck out on a knee-high slider from Ken Giles.

Debutants Shine: On the bright side, the Rays did see several of their newcomers have success. Tsutsugo’s first Major League home run was the highlight of the night. Manuel Margot walked twice and scored twice in his Rays debut and Jose Martinez added a double following Tsutsugo’s homer in the fifth. Surprise roster addition Ryan Thompson had a solid Major League debut with two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. His sidearm delivery adds an interesting element to the pen.

Next: Game two of this three game set. Ryan Yarbrough faces Matt Shoemaker at 3:10 EST on Saturday.

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