Kiermaier Walks It Off as Tampa Bay Rays Come from Behind

Rays Blue Jays

Rays 6, Blue Jays 5

Kevin Kiermaier was 0 for his first 11 at-bats, but as the saying goes, you’re only as good as your last at-bat. If that’s the case, then he is sitting very pretty after Sunday’s game. The Tampa Bay Rays trailed the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 in the bottom of the 10th when Kiermaier came to the plate with two on and no one out. With the new extra inning rule, strategy comes into play. Do you bunt the runners over or do you let Kiermaier try and pull the ball to the right side? Kevin Cash allowed his center fielder to swing away, resulting in a game winning two-run triple.

Snell Struggles

The Rays were going to be cautious with Blake Snell for his first start. They were, however, hoping to get more than two innings out of their star left-hander. He flirted with disaster in his two innings of work but was able to strand all five base runners. He walked two but struck out five on 46 pitches.

When Snell struggles, look no further than fastball command. If he gets ahead of hitters, he’s able to throw his hard breaking ball to put hitters away. No earned runs is not very indicative of his otherwise lousy start to the season.

Lead-Off to Switch Hitter?

As if seeing Ji-Man Choi lead off Saturday wasn’t shocking enough, the sight of him Sunday hitting from the right side of the plate would surely make most look twice.

In the bottom of the third inning, the Blue Jays went to a lefty in Anthony Kay. Choi, who experimented with switch hitting in the minors as well as in summer camp, stepped into the right-handed batter’s box. He was late on a two-strike fastball and struck out in his first attempt.

Choi led off the bottom of the sixth inning, again hitting from the right side. This time, he jumped on a first pitch fastball and drove it out of the deepest part of the ballpark. He is already the best fielding option at first base, and if he can be a threat from both sides of the plate, there is no reason he shouldn’t be there more nights than not. Choi finished the weekend going 2-for-7 with a homer and a double. He was one of the few offensive bright spots in the Rays lineup.

Never Quit

Being down two runs in the bottom of the ninth, with two quick outs, is not an ideal situation to be in. The Rays were still able to start a rally behind Joey Wendle, who doubled down the right-field line off Blue Jays closer Ken Giles. Giles then lost track of the strike zone, walking the next two hitters. With the bases loaded, the closer walked gingerly off the mound and was taken out with an apparent elbow injury.

After Choi walked in a run to the cut the lead to one, Brandon Lowe hit a hard ground ball into the shift. Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who recently switched from third to first, made a costly mistake by vacating the bag, forcing a left-handed pitcher to cover first. Lowe’s head-first dive beat the ball to first to tie the game at four.

After giving up a run in the top of the 10th, the scene was set for Kevin Kiermaier’s heroics. Kiermaier’s triple followed a lead-off walk to Jose Martinez. The extra-inning game was the fourth game to do so in the opening weekend.

Up Next

The Rays will stay home to take on the National League East defending champion Atlanta Braves. There are two games at home followed by two in Atlanta.

Tyler Glasnow will get the start on Monday at 6:40 Eastern. Glasnow will likely be under extreme supervision as he missed the beginning of summer camp after testing positive for COVID.

The Braves will counter with Mike Foltynewicz. The one-time ace had a disappointing 2019 season with a 4.54 ERA.

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