Rays 3, Blue Jays 2: Bullpen day keeps the Jays at bay

After an off-day and another trade acquisition in José Siri, the Rays continued to struggle in their game against Toronto on Tuesday, losing 3-1. Their cushion in the third AL Wild Card spot was now just one game over Cleveland. They sent Jalen Beeks to the mound to open Wednesday’s series finale, with Ryan Yarbrough expected to pitch the bulk of the innings.

Yusei Kikuchi started for the Blue Jays. Kikuchi signed with Toronto as a free agent back in March, but has struggled this year. He entered the game with 70 innings pitched and a 4.89 ERA, which is actually lower than his career ERA. While he’s found a way to strike more batters out, he’s now walking more batters.

Jalen Beeks struggled with command in his first and only inning. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a lead off double, and the first three batters worked three-ball counts. With two outs, Teoscar Hernández hit an RBI double to make it 1-0 Toronto.

The Rays tied it up in the third inning on an Isaac Paredes sac fly to score the speedy Roman Quinn.

Beeks departed after the first, which led to Ryan Yarbrough pitching like Rays fans were once used to. He pounded the strike zone, and kept hitters off balance with his cutter and curveball. In his four innings of work, the only baserunner he allowed was Hernández, who hit a solo home run to make it 2-1 Blue Jays.

Kikuchi managed to work just four innings, which has become common this season for him. He allowed three hits, two runs, one walk, and struck out five.

Those who were unsure about the additions the Rays made prior to the trade deadline should watch today’s sixth inning. Siri, led off the bottom half with a single and quickly stole second base to move into scoring position. Siri is in the 100th percentile for sprint speed according to Statcast and has shown off his legs in the outfield as well as on the basepaths in his first two games with the Rays.

Randy Arozarena grounded out to second which moved Siri to third, which brought up David Peralta, another recent addition from the Arizona Diamondbacks. With two strikes, Peralta lined a sub-90 mph fastball from Adam Cimber into center field to score Siri and give the Rays a 3-2 lead.

In recent weeks, Ryan Thompson has stepped up as one of the most dependable pitchers in the bullpen. Entering Wednesday, he had not allowed an earned run in his last 16 appearances, dating back to June 18th. He continued his run of good form by throwing two perfect innings, striking out two, and forcing three straight Toronto hitters to ground out to shortstop Taylor Walls in the seventh inning.

Thompson bridged the gap to the late innings, when Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam would combine for two innings and four strikeouts to secure the 3-2 victory. Fairbanks allowed one hit to Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who stole his third base of the season to move into scoring position in the bottom of the eighth, but designated hitter Alejandro Kirk grounded out to second to end the inning.

With the Rays having split the two-game home series against the Blue Jays, they now head to Detroit to finish out the rest of the week with a four-game set. They’ll have an off day next Monday before another two-game series in Milwaukee against the Brewers.

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