Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays rout Blue Jays behind Drew Smyly

TORONTO — Drew Smyly had just dominated the potent Blue Jays lineup by twirling a two-hit shutout that was the first complete game of his professional career. But even after the 8-0 win, his Friday night wasn't yet done.

Smyly was sharing congratulations with catcher Curt Casali when three of the Rays' other pitchers — Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb — circled around him at the side of the mound, ready to indoctrinate him into one of their customs; where the starting pitchers stage a group jump to celebrate a complete game.

"He looked like he didn't want to do it," Cobb said. "But we surrounded him, so he had no choice."

Smyly claimed he was willing, if not necessarily excited, having seen clips of past jumps and been briefed, but he just wasn't sure of the protocol.

"I was waiting on them. I didn't know where they wanted to do it," Smyly said. "That was the worst part of the night being in the middle of that jump."

He was joking, but he wasn't kidding. Smyly, the lefty acquired from the Tigers in the trade that sent the lefty, David Price, to Detroit, was masterful as he rolled through a predominantly right-handed, power-hitting Toronto lineup.

Smyly allowed only two singles, by leadoff man Jose Reyes in the first and No. 9 hitter Steve Tolleson in the third, struck out four with no walks and retired the final 19 batters.

"He had everything going on," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Truly a really artistic performance."

Smyly had help, of course, with some strong defense behind him and an unusually explosive offense as the Rays improved to 63-65 and remained no more than seven games back in the race for the second American League wild card.

A day after winning — over Price and the Tigers — with one hit, the Rays logged 14. Evan Longoria provided some muscle with a homer and a two-run double in a three-hit night, and Kevin Kiermaier added plenty of hustle, busting out of the box to turn two singles into a pair of doubles that Maddon called "two of the shortest doubles you've ever seen in your life."

Wil Myers added a homer with his first hit since coming back from the disabled list.

But Smyly was the story as much for throwing his first complete game since his junior year at Arkansas as how he did it, keeping the Jays off-balance and coercing them into bad swings with an assortment of pitches that included his best-ever changeup.

Maddon, who called it the best game a Rays pitcher had thrown in Toronto (which includes Price's 14-strikeout performance Aug. 28, 2011), said he could tell early Smyly was on, and Smyly agreed.

"Pretty much the whole game I felt like I was in charge," he said.

Smyly hadn't completed eight innings in any of his previous 39 big-league starts but was in position thanks to a low pitch count to finish the complete game with 105.

"I'd been waiting for this game. I didn't know if I ever was going to be able to get it because usually I have high pitch counts," Smyly said. "It's a good mark to reach. It's a big accomplishment for me."

As was getting through his first starters jump afterward.

"Now he knows how it goes," Archer said.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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