The Tampa Bay Rays went into Toronto for a crucial midseason five-game series against their division rivals, the Blue Jays. The Rays have had an extremely rough time over the past several weeks, but they wrapped up this series by taking the final three games in impressive fashion.
Let’s look at what happened on a wild weekend in Toronto.
A Rough Start
Coming into this series the Rays had dropped back-to-back games at home to the Milwaukee Brewers. They had also lost nine of their last 14 games dating back to the middle of June. Their standing in the American League East was dropping more and more each day.
The Blue Jays on the other hand came into this series having won two of three against the Boston Red Sox in a massive series. This was their first series victory in their last five series, the last time was against the Detroit Tigers on June 10-12.
The series started with the Blue Jays dominating. Game one was taken by the Blue Jays by a score of 4-1 behind six solid innings from Yusei Kikuchi. This was much needed for Kikuchi who hadn’t gone six or more since his last victory on May 16. This was only his third game going six or more, which make up his three wins this season. His eight strikeouts were also a season-high.
The Blue Jays kicked off July with big offense in game two as they won 9-2. The game was decided pretty quickly behind a five-run 3rd inning where the Jays hit five doubles. Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Alejandro Kirk hit three straight RBI doubles to put the Jays up big early. They never let that lead go as their offense and pitching stayed strong.
The tides quickly turned following these two solid performances from the Blue Jays’ pitching and offense.
A Big Finish
On Saturday, July 2, they had to duel it out in a double header.
The double header began with the Jays jumping out 1-0 on a 1st inning Guerrero Jr. RBI single, however, the Rays dominated the rest of the way. A couple of big homers from Isaac Paredes and Wander Franco, as well timely RBI singles by Randy Arozarena and Rene Pinto lifted the Rays to a 6-2 victory.
The Rays continued their Saturday success by pounding the Blue Jays 11-5 to wrap up the double header. The Rays started with their foot on the gas pedal. They scored one in the 1st, two in the 2nd and three in the 3rd putting them up 6-1 early. Their offense put the game away in the 5th with a three-run homer from Isaac Paredes and a solo shot from Francisco Mejia, who hit two in the game.
The grueling series wrapped up on Sunday afternoon with a 7-3 victory for the Rays. The game was knotted at one going into the top of the 5th. Coming out of the top of the 5th the Rays led 7-1. The Rays broke out the power bats as Harold Ramierez, Ji-Man Choi and Randy Arozarena all smacked two-out homers in a big six-run 5th inning.
Excellent offense and great pitching led the Rays to three huge wins to finish the long series in Toronto.
This was a unique series in a variety of ways for both teams.
This was only the seventh time this season that the Rays won three or more straight games. Only once have they won more than three in a row and that was their six-game win streak from May 2-7.
The Rays scored six or more runs in three straight games, they did it three times in their previous 20 games.
The last time they scored six or more in three straight games was also the last time they outscored opponents by 14 or more in three straight games. They did both on September 22-25, 2021 against the Blue Jays and Miami Marlins. More specifically, the last time they did both in one series was August 16-19 against the Baltimore Orioles which was actually an extremely dominant four-game weep.
This is not a Rays team that hits a lot of homers. They hit three homers in games four and five of the series. The last time they had three or more in back-to-back games was August 16-17, 2021 against the Orioles.
It is also odd they scored all of these runs after giving up nine runs in game two. They haven’t won three straight after giving up nine or more since they gave up nine to the Minnesota Twins on May 1st and then went on to win six straight.
The Blue Jays have gone through their fair share of struggles, but this was highly unusual.
The Blue Jays had not dropped three straight after scoring nine or more in a win since they scored 10 against the Los Angeles Angeles on August 11, 2021, and then lost the next three to the Angels and Seattle Mariners.
Their pitching staff hadn’t allowed six or more runs in three straight losses since May 19-21, 2021, against the Boston Red Sox and Rays.
The Tampa Bay Rays proved themselves at the end of this series. They came back from dropping the first two and took the final three from the Blue Jays. Outside of the New York Yankees, who have the best record in baseball, the rest of the division is extremely tight. The Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox all sit within one game of each other. These three games should give the Rays a lot of confidence as they move on to play the Red Sox for three in Boston.
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