Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rays ride homers, new rule to first win

Logan Forsythe's two-run homer in the eighth inning and a violation of baseball's new slide rule gave the Rays a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
With the Rays up a run and the bases loaded, Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion hit a grounder to third baseman Evan Longoria, who threw to Forsythe covering at second. When Forsythe's throw sailed right of first baseman Steve Pearce, two runs scored. Tampa Bay challenged the slide at second base on Jose Bautista's aggressive move toward Forsythe. After 1 minute and 30 seconds, the call on the field was overturned and both runners were called out to end the game.
The Rays went ahead in the eighth when Forsythe drove a 2-1 curveball from Brett Cecilinto the right-field stands for a two-run homer. The runs snapped Cecil's streak of 38 consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run.
"Just kind of wanted to keep the inning going a little bit, Cecil's a really good pitcher, good curveball," Forsythe said. "Most of his stuff works down in the zone. I was trying to go back up the middle with him and just keep the inning alive and get our big bats up. He left a curveball up and I got the barrel to it."
The win gave the Rays their first of the season after losing their first two to the Blue Jays. The final game of the series will be played Wednesday afternoon.
Down to the replay: Bautista was deemed to have been in violation of Rule 6.01(j), which states runners have to make a "bona fide slide" that involves making contact with the ground before reaching the base, attempting to reach the base with a hand or foot, and being able to remain on the bag at the completion of the slide. In this particular case, Bautista appeared to overslide second base and he also reached out with his left hand and made contact with Forsythe's foot.
"We got briefed in Spring Training, you're not supposed to put your hands up," Bautista said. "It was my first slide trying to break up a double play all season. I know I'm not going to put my hands on the ground and risk injury. I let instinct take over. Did I reach out to make him avoid me? Perhaps. Does that mean it was an illegal slide? I don't know. My feet were aiming straight at the bag. I felt like I was within reach." More >
Gone in a hurry: While Rays fans are getting to know Corey Dickerson this season, they've learned his homers leave the yard in a hurry. Dickerson's leadoff homer in the fourth offAaron Sanchez was projected by Statcast™ to land 411.46 feet away from home plate and had an exit velocity of 106.37 mph. Dickerson's homer Sunday against right-hander Marcus Stroman was projected by Statcast™ to land 386.79 feet away and it had an exit velocity of 102.31 mph.
"That's my normal swing," Dickerson said, "so I feel pretty comfortable up there with my swing." More >
The streak ends: Cecil had a chance to set a Major League record for the most consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run, but that quest came crashing down in the eighth inning courtesy of Forsythe. It was the first time Cecil surrendered an earned run since June 21, 2015, which was a span of 38 appearances. He finishes tied with Craig Kimbrel for the longest stretch without an earned run.
"Cecil had a [heck] of a roll," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "[Forsythe] with the big home run, a good solid hitter. I'm proud of Cecil and what he did." More >
First error stings: Rays starter Jake Odorizzi tried to make a play at the plate when he fielded Encarnacion's swinging bunt in the fourth, but he threw wild to the plate, allowing Bautista to score. It was Odorizzi's first Major League error. The Blue Jays managed to add one more run that inning, but Odorizzi, who fanned 10 over 5 2/3 innings, limited the damage.
"He made a really good play, an athletic play, just pulled the throw a little bit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Even to pitch out of that jam, kind of limit it right there, helped us stay in the ballgame."
Going the opposite way: Bautista doesn't usually go to the opposite field, but he did in the fourth inning, and it worked to perfection. With the outfield playing Bautista to pull, the veteran slugger hit a deep fly ball to right field. Steven Souza Jr. made an ill-advised decision to make a diving attempt, and when the ball rolled away, Bautista motored all the way to third.
Trouble with the curve: Aaron Sanchez's top priority this spring was to master his curveball, and while it's still a work in progress, there were some encouraging signs Tuesday night. With runners on second and third with two outs in the third inning, Sanchez threw a nasty 3-2 curveball to strike out Longoria. Sanchez had trouble keeping the curveball down in the zone earlier in the game, but it was perfectly located around the knees to Longoria as the Rays stranded two.
The slow-footed Justin Smoak came through with his first stolen base in 433 games when he swiped second in the sixth inning. It was Smoak's first stolen base since May 27, 2012, against the Angels.
Bautista's triple in the fourth was his first career hit against Odorizzi. Prior to that, the Blue Jays' slugger had been 0-for-13 with six walks.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, first-base umpire Laz Diaz ruled that a sliding Logan Morrison arrived to first base later than Michael Saunders, after Morrison fielded the ground ball Saunders hit. The Rays challenged the call, and after a 1 minute and 5 second review, the call was overturned.
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ will get the call when the Blue Jays close out their four-game series against the Rays on Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field. This will be Happ's first start for Toronto since 2014. Happ was traded to Seattle at the end of that season, but he returned this offseason on a three-year, $36 million contract.
Rays: Matt Moore makes his first start after ending the 2015 season on a high note. The left-hander had a good spring and hopes to kick off his first healthy full season since his rookie year in 2012.

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