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AL East

Rays Recap: Big Eighth Buoys First Win

The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 on the strength of dominant pitching and an eighth inning rally keyed by 2019 All-Star Brandon Lowe.

Lowe leads the way: After Blue Jays reliever Sam Gaviglio got the first out in the eighth inning, Rays catcher Mike Zunino lined a base hit to right field followed by a Ji-Man-Choi walk. With the score tied at one, that set up Lowe, who roped a hanging changeup to right-center for a two-run triple. Before another pitch was thrown, home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called a balk on Gaviglio and Lowe scored to make it 4-1. Oliver Drake would earn the save after pitching a perfect ninth inning.

 

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Dominant pitching: Soft-tossing lefty Ryan Yarbrough was masterful for 5.1 innings. He put on an absolute clinic in command and pitch mixing while stifling any hopes for Toronto hitters to make hard contact. Yarbrough did not allow an extra base hit. Jays starter Matt Shoemaker was nearly his equal until he gave up an RBI double to Choi in the bottom of the sixth to break a scoreless tie. Yarbrough departed with one out in the sixth after allowing a base hit that was dropped on a diving attempt by Lowe in left field. Chaz Roe came in and finished the inning with no runs allowed.

Pete Fairbanks, a Kevin Cash favorite throughout summer camp, struggled in his season debut. He allowed three baserunners, including a solo homer to catcher Reese Mcguire that tied the game at one. Nick Anderson got Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to pop out on the first pitch he saw to end the seventh. Anderson would also pitch a scoreless eighth before Drake finished the game.  Through two games, the Rays’ bullpen has only allowed one run in 8.2 innings pitched.

Cash’s Catchers Club: Manager Kevin Cash has never been afraid to exhaust all of his catching resources in a game. Despite the inherent risk of injury to a final remaining catcher, Cash chose to pinch-run twice for his catchers and both decisions paid off. Mike Brosseau pinch-ran for Michael Perez in the fifth and proceeded to score from first on Choi’s double. Perez’s replacement Mike Zunino was replaced on the bases by Hunter Renfroe, who scored the winning run on Lowe’s triple. Third catcher Kevan Smith made his Rays debut in the ninth, catching the final three outs from Oliver Drake. Cash clearly had a plan when the decision was made to keep three catchers on the active roster.

Biggio Stays Hot: Most of the Blue Jays’ big boppers have struggled through two games. Cavan Biggio has not. Biggio reached base three more times on Saturday after catalyzing the Jays’ win on opening day. He is quickly becoming a thorn in the Rays’ side.

Next: The rubber game of the series on Sunday at 1:10 EST. 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell faces Thomas Hatch, who will be making his Major League debut.

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