After a homestand where they went 2-7, Tampa Bay traveled north of the border for some french fries and gravy, some Tim Horton’s coffee, and four games against the Blue Jays. Their last trip to Canada this season did not go the way they wanted.
When the Rays kicked off August with three straight wins in Houston, the team and fans were hopeful that they were going to shake off the 12-13 July. Then, they came home and were shut out five times. Nobody saw that coming.
A much-needed break away from Tropicana Field came this week when Tampa Bay traveled to the only international team in the league for a short four game series. Hopefully the four days away from the Trop will rejuvenate the team and put that nine game stretch behind them.
At least, that was the goal.
The Rays began the series in the same rut as the previous week; with a loss. But not for lack of effort.
After a scary moment in his last start removed him early, Jake Odorizzi (6-6) took the mound for the opener. And aside from one swing of the bat, it was exactly the start the Rays needed to see from him. In his second start since returning from the disabled list, Odorizzi went six innings, allowing three hits and three walks with four strikeouts.
Nice work by Odo.
He finishes with five straight scoreless after allowing two in the first. pic.twitter.com/OQm7xWU9rS
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 15, 2017
The damage came when Josh Donaldson hit a two-run home run, which would be the only Toronto scoring Odorizzi and the bullpen allowed. But as was the case much of the last nine games, the Rays could not produce offensively.
The team managed just four hits in the game. Wilson Ramos made the best of his, depositing it into the bleachers for his fourth of the season. But that was all of the Rays offense in the game, as they took the 2-1 loss and went two games under .500.
If you were watching game two of the series, it was like watching an entirely different team that we’d seen in more than 10 days.
The highlight of the game for the Rays was most likely that Blake Snell collected his first win of the season. Snell pitched six innings, and did allow four runs on seven hits. But, for the first time in a Snell start, the offense produced and it resulted in him moving to 1-6 on the year. Alex Colome continued his career year by collecting his 35th save, remaining on the top of the category.
The Rays bats have been dormant of late. But Tuesday, they were awoken, maybe with the help of some famous Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts.
Tampa Bay lit up Toronto starter Marco Estrada (5-8) for 10 hits and six runs in just 4.1 innings. Three of those runs came in the long ball form. Lucas Duda (21) hit a two run shot that opened the scoring for Tampa Bay. Later, Ramos hit his second homer in as many days, for his fifth. All together, the Rays finished with 13 hits…to just five strikeouts. A ratio change that they desperately needed.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 15, 2017
Tampa Bay won the game 6-4, giving everyone hope that the dust had been shaken off. That feeling lasted approximately 24 hours.
The win from Tuesday was quickly forgotten as the Rays lost 3-2 in game three.
The honeymoon period for Jacob Faria has officially passed. In his third shortest short of his young career at just 5.1 innings, Faria (5-4) allowed all three Toronto runs. Managing just three strikeouts, he allowed six hits and two walks through 98 pitches.
Marcus Stroman threw a similar line, allowed two runs on six hits and three walks through 6.1, but collected his 11th win of the season.
Thursday was one of those games where it kept you on the edge of you seat. The Rays kept up with Toronto until the bitter end. Unfortunately, they lost 5-3, but this is one where you cannot fault them for trying.
For the second game in the series, Donaldson practically did all the scoring himself. Going 2-for-3, he hit not one, but two home runs off Chris Archer. He scored as many runs as Tampa Bay did by himself. But the Rays kept up. Almost every time Toronto scored, the Rays matched in the next inning.
For Archer (8-7), even though he did not get the decision, he did have two milestones in the game. His 10 strikeouts pushed him to 207 on the season, as well as over 1000 for his career. He joins David Price and James Shields as the only pitchers in team history to accomplish the feat while in a Tampa Bay uniform.
Congratulations to @ChrisArcher22!
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 17, 2017
The 5-3 loss puts the Rays 60-63) three games under .500 for the first time since they were 19-22 back in May.
The added pressure of the playoff race has definitely shown as the Rays have won gone just 6-10 to start August. Now that starting pitchers have seen to found a groove, the bats need to return to early season form. In the Toronto series, 45 runners were left on base, including 14 on Thursday alone. That means potentially 45 runs abandoned. That is both good and bad; good because they are getting men on, but bad because they cannot seem to bring them home.
The short road trip is over but the team barely has a moment to catch their breath as Seattle comes to the Trop for a three game set starting Friday. Former Rays pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (4-4) takes the mound for the Mariners against Austin Pruitt (6-3). After three against Seattle, the Blue Jays come south for three more games against Tampa Bay.
It is also possible that the team could activate Kevin Kiermaier for Friday’s game, depending on how his rehab start with Charlotte goes Thursday night.