Festive opener end up disappointing as Rays lose 5-3
All the festivities of a sold-out nationally televised opening day gave way to a frustrating 5-3 loss on Sunday for the Rays.
Starter Chris Archer put them in an early hole against the Blue Jays. The defense, specifically new first baseman Logan Morrison, didn't help. And the new bats were mostly quiet.
Archer ended up striking out 12, the first pitcher to do so on opening day since Seattle's Felix Hernandez in 2007, but lasted only five innings as he threw 107 pitches. Rays pitchers struck out 16 overall, tying the modern-day major-league record.
The Jays scored twice in Archer's 34-pitch opening inning, which included two hits, two walked in and a wild pitch. They added another run in the fourth when Morrison, starting in place of the released James Loney, misplayed a line drive by Patrick Saunders who came around to score on Kevin Pillar's single.
Troy Tulowitzki added a two-run homer off reliever Ryan Webb in the eighth.
The Rays got their first run in the third, when Evan Longoria delivered a two-out single to score Logan Forsythe, and didn't do much else against Jays starter Marcus Stroman.
Not until the ninth, when Corey Dickerson led off with a homer, and Desmond Jennings followed with a broken bat single that ended Stroman's night. A two-out, two-strike single by Kevin Kiermaier made it 5-3 and got the tying run to the plate, but Hank Conger
Stroman and Morrison had words as Morrison was coming off the field after a fifth-inning flyout.
The announced crowd of 31,042 included MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, the first time in 19 seasons a commissioner attended the Rays home opener, and principal owner Stuart Sternberg.
Although openers are always the day for optimism, Sternberg expressed an interesting take on the season before the game.
"I'm a little less confident that I've been any year since and including 2008 because there is a wider range of outcomes this year in my eyes than we've had before,'' Sternberg said. "We have thought in all of those years, including 2008, that we were an 80-something to 90-something win team. I don't know. We could win 72, we could win 97 games. ...
"If we have our guys stay healthy and perform up to their capabilities, I believe we'll take the division. And if we have some underperformers, the rest of the league is so good, you could become a 72-win team in a heartbeat.''
Among the opening day scenes:
Actor George Wendt, known primarily as Norm from the sitcom Cheers, threw out the first pitch, and bounced it badly. ... Pizza baron Papa John himself was on the field, chatting with 3B Evan Longoria - maybe comparing recipes? - and promoting his chain's new partnership with MLB for a 40 percent discounts the day after any player hits a grand slam. ... Tampa Bay area saxophonist B.K. Jackson got deserving applause for stirring renditions of both anthems, and then again for God Bless America.