The Tampa Bay Rays have grown accustomed to lighting up the scoreboard, and they look to do so again on Friday when they begin a three-game series versus the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, N.Y.
The Rays extended their winning streak to six games on Thursday with a 17-8 rout of the Red Sox in Boston. All told, Tampa Bay set franchise records in runs (42), hits (59) and extra-base hits (24) during a four-game series against the Red Sox.
Gaudy numbers to be certain, but let’s try this on for size: Sahlen Field, which normally houses the Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate, has yielded 11 home runs in its first pair of games as a Major League Baseball venue.
With that said, perhaps Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Lowe are licking their chops ahead of the series opener. After all, the former belted a pair of homers and the latter went deep for the second straight game in the Rays’ series finale versus the Red Sox.
“We were fortunate to come in and put together a couple really good days offensively,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “Today, another game got out of hand, but the guys did a really good job of putting together good at-bats. … (We’re) very encouraged by the offense.”
Toronto right-hander Tanner Roark (1-1, 5.63 ERA) will be tasked with slowing down the Rays.
While Roark boasts two wins in as many career starts versus Tampa Bay (2.08 ERA), the 33-year-old didn’t fare well in his last trip to the mound overall. He allowed two homers and four runs overall with five walks in three innings of a 5-3 setback to the Red Sox on Friday.
Roark has seen a velocity drop in his first two starts of the season. His average fastball clocked in at 92.1 mph in 2019, however it is coming at just 87 mph this season, per TSN.
The Rays will counter with right-hander Trevor Richards (0-0, 5.79), who will make his first start of the season after making three relief appearances. Richards is 1-0 with a 6.35 ERA in two career games against the Blue Jays.
Toronto flexed its offensive muscle in its last game on Wednesday, but it became the fourth team in major league history to lose while exploding for seven homers in a 14-11 defeat in 10 innings to the Miami Marlins.
“Hopefully that’s the start of a good offense and what we think we can do,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “The other side was our defense, which was not very good. We didn’t make the plays and (the Marlins) are playing pretty good, so when you make errors, they take advantage. That’s what they did.”
Travis Shaw belted two homers and Bo Bichette went deep in his third straight game for the Blue Jays. Bichette, in fact, went 5-for-5 in that contest and is 13-for-29 (.448) during his seven-game hitting streak.
Bichette, however, dismissed the notion that he feels more at home at Sahlen Field considering he played there for Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate.
“I don’t think this park is doing us any favors,” he said. “When I was here, it wasn’t necessarily a hitters’ park. I think every ball we hit (Wednesday) would have been out (of the park) anywhere.”
Bichette hit safely in all three contests against Tampa Bay to begin the season, highlighted by a two-run single in a 6-5 setback in the rubber game of the series.
–Field Level Media