ST. PETERSBURG — Over the course of six innings Friday, Rays fans witnessed the whole mesmerizing, maddening spectrum of a Tyler Glasnow start.
The good, the bad and the fluky.
Alternately unhittable and unwatchable at Friday evening’s outset, the 6-foot-8 right-hander allowed four Blue Jays runs and struck out four in the first inning before settling into an efficient groove.
The groove arrived too late as Toronto held on for a 5-3 victory before a Tropicana Field audience of 5,564.
“Just the rhythm was all wrong, it just didn’t feel right,” said Glasnow, who has totaled 67 first-inning pitches in his last two starts. “I think I was just trying to like, force a feeling. I talked to (pitching coach) Kyle (Snyder) after the second ... I was just like, not rhythmic at all.”
Any semblance of a conventional first inning, and the Rays (10-10) might have notched their sixth win in seven contests thanks to Randy Arozarena, who produced the Rays’ offensive and defensive highlights in the fifth.
Instead, they lost their fourth consecutive home game, their longest skid at Tropicana Field in two years. They’ll try to snap it Saturday evening, with right-hander Brent Honeywell the likely opener.
“For the way that was going...you certainly don’t anticipate (Glasnow) getting through six innings,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “That’s pretty remarkable. ... That’s somewhat of a good thing.”
Brandishing a 90-mph slider and near 100-mph fastball in his first handful of pitches, Glasnow struck out Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette to open the game before the Jays’ eruption.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who has safely reached base in all 19 Toronto games, singled and scored on cleanup hitter Rowdy Tellez’s double. After walking Randal Grichuk on four pitches, Glasnow delivered a 97-mph four-seam fastball to Marcus Semien, who sent the 2-1 pitch over the wall in left center field for a 413-foot home run.
The four first-inning runs doubled the total Glasnow surrendered in his first four starts. The barrage was followed by the bizarre.
Glasnow got Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to swing at an 83-mph curve for the apparent third out, but the ball got away from catcher Francisco Mejia and Gurriel reached first on the wild pitch. He then struck out No. 9 hitter Danny Jansen, becoming the third player in Rays history (joining Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson) to strike out four batters in an inning.
Additionally, he became only the second pitcher in major league history — and first since 1902 — to allow four runs and record four strikeouts (or more) in the same inning, according to Stats LLC. Glasnow eventually struck out 10 in six innings, needing only 57 pitches to get through his last five.
“I was just p----d off the whole time, but ... I mean, I knew I had to go out and keep my pitch count down,” said Glasnow (2-1), trying to win his eighth consecutive decision. “I wanted to go and get six innings for sure. That was like, pretty much the only thing on my mind. So I tried to be as efficient as I could.”
The Rays, meantime, put runners in scoring position in three of the first four innings, but failed to produce a run off Jays left-hander Steven Matz.
Things suddenly changed courtesy of Arozarena, the Rays’ resident phenomenon.
In the top of the fifth, the 26-year-old Cuba native raced from leftfield for a diving snag of a two-out Tellez fly that centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier lost in the Tropicana Field roof.
“Off the bat, I knew it was a high pop fly,” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Obviously in this stadium the roof is always a factor. So once I saw that Kiermaier lost it, I just kind of kept on running and found it and laid out.”
In the bottom of the inning, after Kiermaier led off with a single and Yandy Diaz drew his second straight walk, Arozarena sent a 92-mph Matz sinker 445 feet to left-center for a three-run home run, cutting the visitors’ lead to 4-3.
Grichuk’s leadoff home run off Glasnow in the sixth gave Toronto a two-run cushion. The Rays failed to produce a hit in the final four innings off a quartet of Jays relievers.
Matz (4-0) became the fifth pitcher in Jays history to record the win and allow three or fewer runs in each of his first four starts of a season.
“(Matz) was able throw his changeup behind in the count,” Cash said. “He mixed his off-speed pitches in there. I don’t think there were many surprises; we had a pretty good understanding of what he was going to try to do, which he did. He just executed very, very well.”
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.