The surging Toronto Blue Jays are winning wherever they play these days — whether it’s at ‘home’ in Buffalo or in Florida near their spring training complex.
Toronto won for the sixth straight time on Friday night as Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. drove in runs in the top of the 10th inning of the club’s 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The two clubs play at 6:40 p.m. ET Saturday in the second meeting of the four-game series.
The Blue Jays, who train 30 minutes north of the Rays’ Tropicana Field in Dunedin, built a 4-1 lead, watched it slip away and saw its youth — in the form of Biggio and Gurriel — take over and lift the team to another victory and put them two games over .500.
Biggio fought off a pitch and looped a double near the left field line to drive in the go-ahead run. Gurriel jumped on a pitch early in the count for a sacrifice fly for a two-run lead.
The Blue Jays improved to 3-4 in extra innings — 1-1 against Tampa Bay, which is 2-2 in extra frames — and used the momentum of a doubleheader sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies in Buffalo on Thursday to beat the top club in the American League East.
Gurriel and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. laced back-to-back solo shots in a four-run second. Guerrero’s fourth homer was a low laser that sizzled out to left field at just a 16-degree launch angle — the second-lowest on a home run this season.
Starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker tossed five solid innings, but with the Blue Jays closing in on the Rays and New York Yankees in the standings, the team may be willing to add a piece as the Aug. 31 trade deadline nears.
Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said that addition could be made on the mound.
“It would be starting pitching,” Atkins said Thursday. “If there’s ways to continue to build upon that depth, we will look to do that. Our bullpen has actually been one of the strengths of the team this year and has been very effective, but at the same time, thinking about pitching and preventing runs is where the focus will be.”
Lefty Hyun Jin Ryu (2-1, 3.46), who made his first career start against the Rays on Opening Day on July 24 at the Trop, will make his sixth start in 2020 on Saturday. He pitched 4 2/3 innings in his AL debut last month against the Rays, allowing three runs on four hits.
He has worked six innings in each of his last two starts and has recorded victories in two of his last three outings.
The Rays lost for the first time in 13 games when they have scored at least five runs.
Tampa Bay received some bad news to its starting rotation on Friday as Venezuelan right-hander Yonny Chirinos, 26, was lost for the remainder of this season and likely all of 2021 with a torn UCL and will require Tommy John surgery.
Chirinos (0-0, 2.38) opened the season as the club’s No. 5 starter and had logged 11 1/3 innings in three starts, but his injury creates more burden on manager Kevin Cash’s staff.
“He threw a bullpen, a light (workout), and just didn’t feel right, like himself,” Cash said to the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday. “He complained of just a lack of power in his pitches.”
Chirinos joins six other Rays pitchers on the team’s growing injured list, including ace Charlie Morton, hard-throwing reliever Jose Alvarado and high-leverage situational reliever Colin Poche.
Right-hander Aaron Slegers, 27, is expected to make his first start of the season for Tampa Bay on Saturday. Slegers (0-0, 11.25 ERA) has appeared in 12 games over four seasons spent in the majors, with just five starts. His last start came in 2018 with the Minnesota Twins.
This season, Slegers has given up five runs over four innings scattered across three relief appearances. His two most recent outings have resulted in two scoreless innings, including the save in a 7-5 win over Toronto on Aug. 16.
–Field Level Media