Friday, July 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays set season high for hits in rout of Blue Jays

TORONTO — That the Rays rapped a season-high 17 hits in a frustration-easing 13-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Monday was obviously the news of the day.

Especially since the much-needed win came a day after a stinging 7-6 loss, improving the Rays to 17-19 as they opened an eight-game, three-city road trip.

"Awesome win," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's been a long 24 hours, that's for sure."

That Drew Smyly got the win almost in spite of himself — needing 101 pitches, including three straight walks in the first, to get through five innings despite the ample early lead — made for an interesting footnote.

"At first I wasn't sure I was going to make it through five," he said. "It was a grind for me. I was having a hard time hitting my spots."

But the stories were in the hits.

Most encouraging were the three by Desmond Jennings, who had had one since April 22, battling through a 1-for-36 skid that landed him more frequently on the bench. But using a try-easier approach, he had a single that led to a run, a two-RBI double and a second-deck homer in the ninth.

"It definitely feels better than I have been," Jennings said. "You've just got to keep doing it. You can't do it once. You've got to continue to work, get better, try to relax, just go have fun."

Most memorable was the first by Taylor Motter, the long-haired, free-spirited, multi-positional callup from Durham who reached on an infield single the first time he stepped on the field as a major-leaguer.

"I'm lucky it happened, I'm happy it happened," he said. "I'm kind of just trying to float back to Earth right now."

Motter became the 17th player in Rays history to get a hit in his first major-league plate appearance, and the first since Curt Casali on July 18, 2014, at Minnesota.

Most important were the three other homers, as they gave and, something the Rays haven't done well, expanded their lead: Steve Pearce with a two-run shot in the first to put them ahead, Tim Beckham with a two-run launch in the second that was his first of the season and Casali with the game separator, a three-run blast in the fourth.

"A lot of balls were hit with authority," Cash said. "Just a good night offensively all around. A lot of solid approaches."

Most impressive was an infield single for Kevin Kiermaier, basically because he was every-day hustling all out to beat out an infield single, even though the Rays led 9-0 at the time.

Most intriguing was a double by Brandon Guyer in the eighth, only because it was followed with a single by Logan Morrison, who looked to have a prime opportunity for his first RBI of the season — in game 36 — but Guyer was thrown out at the plate.

And most telling was that 11 different Rays, the nine starters and both subs, all had something under the hits column in a game started by previously undefeated J.A. Happ: Steven Souza Jr. had three, Evan Longoria and Brad Miller had one each.

"Just a great offensive outpour by everybody,'' Cash said.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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