Tampa Bay Rays beat Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 to sweep wild-card series

Tampa Bay Rays beat Toronto Blue Jays in Game 2 to sweep wild-card series

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — An unexpected return to the playoffs didn’t last long for the Toronto Blue Jays.

They surprised many by getting to the wild-card series. The top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays surprised no one by shutting them down.

Tampa Bay hit two homers off Blue Jays ace Hyun-Jin Ryu in a six-run second inning and rolled to an 8-2 rout that eliminated Toronto in the minimum two games.

“We knew coming in it was a big challenge,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “We faced some great pitching and we just didn’t hit.”

Mike Zunino hit a two-run shot and Hunter Renfroe belted a grand slam as the Rays advanced to the American League Division Series. Danny Jansen accounted for the Toronto offence with two solo homers.

Tampa Bay will next play Cleveland or New York. The Yankees took a 1-0 lead into Game 2 later Wednesday.

The Blue Jays benefited from Major League Baseball’s expanded 2020 post-season structure by taking the eighth and final seed in the American League. The team’s young core made strides over the 60-game campaign to qualify for the playoffs but were overmatched upon arrival.

“It’s a learning experience,” Montoyo said. “This is what it’s about in the playoffs. You’ve got to play the best teams.”

Tampa Bay had control in a 3-1 Game 1 victory a day earlier despite managing just four hits. In Game 2, the Rays had four hits in the opening inning alone.

Ryu was out of sorts from the start. His fastball didn’t have its usual zip and his control was suspect.

The Rays took advantage with Manuel Margot driving in Randy Arozarena with an RBI single to open the scoring in the first inning. Ryu fanned Willy Adames with the bases loaded to limit the damage to one run.

Kevin Kiermaier led off the second with a single and scored when Zunino went deep on an 0-2 pitch. Ryu gave up a double and a two-out walk later in the frame and should have escaped when Margot hit a ground ball to Bo Bichette.

However, the Toronto shortstop bobbled it for his second error of the game to leave the bases loaded. Renfroe made the Blue Jays pay with a no-doubt grand slam.

“I think it’s disappointing to end my season like that defensively for sure,” said Bichette, who was 0-for-6 in the series. “Both games I thought I had good at-bats. Obviously not good enough.”

The experienced Rays seemed more comfortable in a playoff setting and they made fewer mistakes. Tampa Bay’s defence was excellent and starters Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow delivered.

Glasnow opened Game 2 by striking out Cavan Biggio on three pitches. The hard-throwing right-hander needed just seven pitches to retire the side.

Glasnow struck out eight over six innings, giving up six hits, two earned runs and a walk. Ryu lasted 1 2/3 innings and allowed eight hits, three earned runs, four unearned runs and one walk while striking out two.

“They were getting hits off all of my pitches,” Ryu said via a translator. “I don’t think they were necessarily sitting on one or something like that. I just didn’t have a good game.”

The Toronto bullpen did a nice job but the offence never found its rhythm. Rookie Nate Pearson struck out five of the six batters he faced over two clean innings.

The Rays, who outhit Toronto 12-7, swept a playoff series for the first time.

Tampa Bay entered Game 2 with a 7-4 edge in head-to-head matchups with the Blue Jays this year although Toronto had outscored the Rays 49-47 overall.

Ryu had an extra day of rest after the Blue Jays gave Matt Shoemaker the surprise start in Game 1. Shoemaker and Robbie Ray were effective over six innings but the decision left Taijuan Walker – the team’s clear No. 2 starter – on the outside looking in.

Travis Shaw started at first base Wednesday while Alejandro Kirk, the Game 1 designated hitter, returned to the bench. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who misplayed a foul pop-up in the opener, handled DH duties.

Tampa Bay made it to the ALDS last year before being eliminated by the Houston Astros. The Blue Jays, who rebuilt their roster over the last few years, were last in the post-season in 2016.

The Rays were 40-20 in the regular season while the Blue Jays were 32-28.

“We have a lot to be proud of, we really do,” Jansen said. “We knocked on the door and in the next year we’re going to be ready to go through it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

The Canadian Press

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