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AL East

Rays Recap: Kiermaier wins it in tenth

Kevin Kiermaier walked off the Blue Jays with his first hit of the season as the Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5.

Wild Finish: The Rays slowly clawed back from a four run deficit to win it in extra innings. Blue Jays closer Ken Giles entered in the ninth with a 4-2 lead and got the first two outs with ease. Joey Wendle then ripped a double down the rightfield line and things got wild. Giles proceeded to walk Willy Adames and Yoshi Tsutsugo to load the bases. Ji-man Choi came to the plate and after he ran the count to 3-1, Giles appeared to be injured and left the game. Lefty Brian Moran came in to face Choi, who responded by switching his hitting side (more on this below) and drew the fourth ball for an RBI walk. Brandon Lowe then grounded an infield single into the shift on the right side of the infield. The play was reviewed and it was determined that Lowe beat Moran to first base as Adames scored to tie the game. Yandy Diaz lined out to right to send the game to extra innings.

The tenth inning also contained an important replay review. Santiago Espinal was assigned to run as the pre-existing runner on second base. He was originally called out trying to steal third with one out before video replay determined he was safe. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. subsequently drove him in on a sacrifice fly to left. Reliever Chaz Roe would leave the tenth inning only allowing the one run.

Strangely, Rays manager Kevin Cash designated catcher Kevan Smith as his runner on second base. Right-hander Shun Yamaguchi made his Major League debut and eventually picked up the loss. Jose Martinez drew a leadoff walk before Kiermaier laced a double to right field to score two runs to win the ballgame. Roe collected the win.

Snell spotty in return: Blake Snell pitched two scoreless innings, but his command was spotty despite picking up five strikeouts. He gave up three hits and two walks, along with a wild pitch, and was fortunate to have not given up any runs. The Rays will need him to get his mechanics right quickly if they want to contend for an AL East title.

Sixth inning sinks Richards: Righty Trevor Richards came in to replace Snell in the third inning and was terrific in his first three innings of work. The sixth inning gave him issues as the first five batters he faced reached base and he was pulled in favor of Andrew Kittredge. Kittredge allowed two more singles to bring the deficit to 4-0 before retiring the red-hot Cavan Biggio and coaxing a double play from Vlad Guerrero Jr. to stop the bleeding. The numbers won’t look pretty for Richards, but he should be given credit for bridging the Rays into the late innings.

Ji-Man-Choi, switch hitter: First baseman Ji-Man-Choi has been experimenting through summer camp with hitting right-handed even though he has never done so at the Major League level. After striking out on consecutive fastballs versus Jays lefty Anthony Kay in the third inning. In the sixth, Choi drove a center-cut fastball 429 feet to left-center for a home run in his second career at-bat as a righty to get the Rays on the scoreboard. As mentioned before, he also switched sides mid-at-bat in the ninth and drew the walk that set up Lowe’s game-tying single. Choi’s switch-hitting prowess will be something to watch going forward.

Jays a tough out: Make no mistake, the Blue Jays played an excellent series and they look as though they could contend for a spot in the expanded playoff field. Their young hitters made the necessary adjustments to keep up and they were inches from winning the series outright. They will be competitive all season.

Next: The Rays face the Atlanta Braves in a strange four game series. The first two will take place at Tropicana Field, with Tyler Glasnow making his season debut against righty Mike Foltynewicz at 6:40 EST on Monday.

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