Kevin Kiermaier’s first hit of the season, a two-run triple into the right field corner in the 10th inning, gave the Tampa Bay Rays a 6-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
Tampa Bay’s defensive whiz delivered the second walkoff hit of his career after the Rays scored twice in the ninth to force extra innings, then fell behind again 5-4 when Blue Jays pinch-runner Santiago Espinal stole third base and scored on Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s sacrifice fly off Chaz Roe (1-0).
“It was a frustrating series for me personally … but I had a feeling something good was going to happen,” Kiermaier said. “It was good to see one fall, finally.”
The Rays began the bottom of the 10th with Kevan Smith on second base. Jose Martinez drew a walk from rookie Shun Yamaguchi (0-1) before Kiermaier — a three-time Gold Glove centre fielder — ended an 0-for-11 skid to begin the pandemic-delayed season.
“Full team effort. … It says a lot about the resolve” of the Rays, manager Kevin Cash said.
The loss concluded an unsettling week for the displaced Blue Jays, who will not play any home games in Toronto this season after being denied permission by the Canadian government to play at Rogers Centre during the pandemic.
Instead, the team will play a majority of its home dates in Buffalo, New York, in a minor league stadium undergoing improvements.
Despite losing two of three to the Rays, the Blue Jays left Tropicana Field encouraged.
“When you lose games like that, it’s tough. But I was right there on the top of the stairs making sure they knew we played three good games. Keep your head up,” Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo said. “We competed with one of the best teams in baseball. That was my message.”
Bo Bichette’s two-run single was the biggest blow in Toronto’s four-run sixth inning against Trevor Richards.
Giles scheduled for MRI
Toronto Blue Jays closer Ken Giles is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his right pitching elbow, Montoyo said.
Giles left the ninth inning of Sunday’s game because of elbow soreness. The 29-year-old Giles appeared in two of the Blue Jays’ first three games this season. He is coming off a strong season in which he posted a 1.87 ERA and notched 23 saves in 53 relief appearances.
Giles has 115 career saves in 355 games with the Philadelphia Phillies, Houston Astros and Blue Jays.
CF Randal Grichuk left the game while Toronto was on defence in the sixth inning. Montoyo said his back tightened up, adding both Grichuk and Giles are day to day.
Anthony Kay pitched 2 2/3 innings in relief of rookie starter Thomas Hatch, who made his major league debut for the Blue Jays. He was in a position to get the win until closer Ken Giles faltered after getting two outs in the ninth.
The reliever yielded a two-out double to pinch hitter Joey Wendle before walking Willy Adames and Yoshi Tsutsugo to load the bases. Ji-Man Choi worked him to a 3-1 count before Giles left the game because of elbow soreness.
“He got the first two outs like he always does and then Wendle has a great at-bat with the double,” Montoyo said. “Then his command wasn’t there, but he looked fine, he never complained or anything. That’s why I thought he was fine the whole time.”
Hatch walked two but didn’t allow a hit while striking out three in 2 1/3 innings.
Kay worked into the sixth inning, when Choi hit the first right-handed home run of his career and Brandon Lowe followed with a double to end the Toronto reliever’s day.
The lefty-swinging Choi, who experimented with batting right-handed during workouts in spring training and summer camp, switched over to the right side for two at-bats against Kay. After striking out in the third, he drove the left-hander’s first pitch of the sixth over the wall in left centre field.
“The first at-bat we were playing defence for a while, so I wasn’t really warmed up as a righty,” Choi said through an interpreter. “The second one, I swung and the ball just travelled.”
Biggio extends on-base streak
Toronto’s Cavan Biggio singled in the eighth, extending his on-base streak to 32 games, the longest active stretch in the majors.
Blake Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young award winner, started for the Rays. The lefty, looking to rebound from going 6-8 with a 4.29 ERA last season, pitched two scoreless innings but had to work out of jams in each of them.
Toronto left the bases loaded in the first, then stranded two more runners in the second. The Blue Jays finally broke through against Trevor Richards in the sixth, beginning the inning with six consecutive hits.
Manuel Margot’s fielding error allowed the first Blue Jays run to score. Danny Jansen followed with a RBI single, and Bichette extended the lead to 4-0 with his two-run single.
Blue Jays won’t play home game in Buffalo until August 11
The Blue Jays won’t play a home game in Buffalo, N.Y., until next month.
The Blue Jays said Sunday that Sahlen Field won’t be used for a major-league game before their series against the Miami Marlins starting Aug. 11.
Toronto is using its triple-A affiliate’s stadium as its home base this season after being denied permission to play at Rogers Centre by the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Blue Jays are upgrading the Bisons’ field to bring it up to major league standards.
Toronto was supposed to host the Washington Nationals for two games Wednesday and Thursday, then host the Philadelphia Phillies from Friday to Aug. 2.
Those five games will instead be played at the home stadiums of the Nationals and Phillies, respectively, with Toronto designated as the home team.
The location of the Blue-Jays-Phillies games was announced Sunday. The Jays had previously announced they’d stay in Washington for a pair of home games after a two-game road series against the Nationals on Monday and Tuesday.
The Blue Jays will now play their first 16 games of the 60-game season away from Buffalo.
The Blue Jays had attempted to find a major-league home that they would share with another team before the 60-game season started — trying both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles — but were turned away by the Pennsylvania government before the clock ran out on their bid with Maryland hours before their season opener at Tampa Bay.
The Canadian government would not allow the team permission to play in Toronto due to the constant travel between that Canada-U.S. border.