The Tampa Bay Rays baseball season is finally underway here in July. The Rays opened up the season against their division rivals, the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Charlie Morton took the ball on Opening Day for the first time in his 13-year career. This is coming off his 2019 career year where he finished third in the AL Cy Young voting.
Morton was on cruise control for the first time through the order but the wheels started coming off in the top of the fourth inning. A few singles, a walk, and a pair of sacrifice flies gave the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead. The big blow however came when Cavan Biggio got on top of a high fastball for a three-run homer to right. That put the Rays in a hole 6-1. Charlie’s night ended there with a stat line of six earned runs in only four-plus innings.
The Rays have many new faces, but Yoshi Tsutsugo may be the most intriguing one. He showed what he can do when he took Hyun Jin Ryu deep in the fifth inning. The two-run shot cut the deficit to 6-3. The most impressive part was that it was lefty vs lefty and he went opposite field to left-center. Yoshi is expected to get most of his starts at designated hitter against right-handed pitchers so some may have been surprised to even see him in the lineup, let alone playing third base.
Bullpen Held Strong
Getting only four innings out of the gate from the ace can be a stressful situation for the bullpen. The Rays turned to Ryan Thompson and Jalen Beeks who both threw two innings apiece. Thompson made his big league debut, creating weak contact with his unorthodox delivery.
Beeks struck out five while showing a nice bump in velocity from the left side. His role could be greatly increased with fellow southpaw Colin Poche out for the season with a UCL tear.
Jose Alvarado had a troubling 2019 season but was effectively wild striking out two in the top of the ninth. Control has always been his problem, but in this game, it bent but did not break. In a loss, the bullpen can definitely be a silver lining to be happy about.
The Rays left 11 men on base, which is always a recipe for disaster. The big letdown came in the bottom of the eighth, with one run already in and the top of the order coming to the plate, with bases loaded and only one out. Yandy Diaz popped out, and newly acquired Hunter Renfroe struck out looking with a chance to win over fans early.
The Rays got the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Brandon Lowe struck out to end the game 6-4.
The Blue Jays and Rays will play the middle game of the series on Saturday at 3:10 PM EST.
Rays will send Ryan Yarbrough to the mound to try and get them in the win column. Yarbrough pitched last year as both a starter and “bulk” pitcher behind an opener. He is the most stretched out of the starters heading into the season.
The Blue Jays will counter with veteran right-hander Matt Shoemaker.
With a 60-game schedule, it is imperative to see the Rays bounce back after a home loss in the 2020 opener.
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