Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Jays take flight on 3 HRs, Pillar's slick catch

Weak spots don't exist in the Blue Jays' lineup. On Monday night at Tropicana Field, that imposing lineup overpowered the Rays in a 5-3 win.
Left-hander Drew Smyly started for the Rays and allowed just six hits in 6 2/3 innings. Unfortunately for him and the Rays, three of those hits were home runs. Josh Thole andJosh Donaldson hit solo home runs and Michael Saunders added a two-run shot to lead the Blue Jays' offense and account for four of their five runs.
"I thought Drew was good," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He just got beat up by the long balls by the two lefties. And then obviously Donaldson." More >
R.A. Dickey gave up three runs in five-plus innings, including a solo home run to Steven Souza Jr., but the Blue Jays knuckleballer came away with his first win of the season.
"I think I made the mistake of having a four-run lead there in the fifth and pitching to the scoreboard a little bit," Dickey said. "But this is my fourth year with the team and it's my first win in my opening start, so hopefully it's a sign of good things to come."
Saunders sends one out: Saunders delivered the big blow for the Blue Jays in the top of the fourth inning with a deep fly ball to center field. Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier appeared to get a perfect read and timed his jump well, but the ball went just over his outstretched glove and beyond the wall. The two-run shot put the Blue Jays up, 4-1, and gave Saunders his first homer since Sept. 24, 2014, when he was with the Mariners.
"He was a big part of the plan last year, and that didn't happen," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said in reference to Saunders' knee injury in 2015. "He had a good spring, he's feeling good, he's excited to be back out there and he's doing a [heck] of a job."
Kiermaier hustle: Kiermaier excelled on the basepaths one night after making a costly baserunning blunder. In the second inning, he made it to second base after hitting a single to right and seeing Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista throw behind him at first. Three innings later he hustled to get to third on Curt Casali's single, then scored the Rays' second run on a wild pitch by Dickey.
Bringer of Rain: Toronto's third home run of the evening came courtesy of the reigning American League MVP. Donaldson lined an 81-mph changeup deep into the left-field seats for his first homer of the season. According to Statcast™, Donaldson's solo shot was projected to travel 397 feet and left his bat at 112 mph. The Blue Jays had one homer on Opening Day and three on Monday after leading the Majors with 232 last season.
Smyly and the long ball: Not since May 26, 2014, when Smyly pitched for the Tigers, has he struggled so with the long ball. The Athletics hit four home runs off him that night. Donaldson, who homered off Smyly on Monday night, played for the Athletics and hit one of those four home runs. Save for that night, Smyly had never given up more than two in a game.
Pillar's leap of faith: Toronto was clinging to a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning when Logan Morrison hit a deep fly ball to the gap in left-center. Kevin Pillar got a quick read on the ball and made a leaping off-balance catch before crashing head-first into the wall. Despite the violent collision, Pillar held onto the ball for the first out of the inning.More >
"I knew the ball was in there. If it hits the glove, it's in there. It's auto catch." -- Pillar, on his catch
Smyly's start marked the 238th straight game the Rays have started a pitcher under the age of 30.
Roberto Osuna became the second pitcher in Blue Jays history to save the first two games of the season. Osuna tossed a perfect ninth and now has a career 2.31 ERA in 12 appearances against the Rays. Miguel Batista saved Toronto's first two games in 2005.
With one out in the third, Thole hit a ball off Smyly to center field that appeared to be a home run. But the umpires ruled fan interference and directed Thole to second base. That led to a Crew Chief review. After viewing all relevant angles, the Replay Official determined that the ball would have left the playing field despite the fan making contact with the ball. Thus the call on the field was overturned, giving Thole his first home run of the season and tying the score at 1. More >
A double challenge came with one out in the fourth, when Chris Colabello hit a ball down the right-field line. Souza made the catch, but several steps after he did, the ball fell from his glove and the ball was ruled a dropped foul. That invited challenges from both managers. Gibbons challenged whether the ball was fair or foul, foul, while Tampa Bay's Kevin Cash was believed to have challenged the catch. After a review, the Replay Official determined that Souza had demonstrated possession of the ball.
After the game, Cash said he never challenged the call, but the crew thought he had. He had asked the crew if he could challenge if they upheld the Blue Jays' challenge. They said yes, but wouldn't go on the headsets twice. As soon as it was ruled that Souza caught the ball, that rendered Gibbons' challenge moot.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their four-game series against the Rays on Tuesday night. Sanchez was named to the rotation during the final week of Spring Training after he beat out Gavin FloydJesse Chavez and Drew Hutchison for the job.
Rays: Jake Odorizzi will make his first start of the season. Apart from his final outing, when the Pirates got to him in the first inning, he had a strong spring. Odorizzi has made six career starts against the Blue Jays. In the first six, he did not allow a home run. In the last two, he allowed four.

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