The scorching Toronto Blue Jays are the proverbial team that no one wants to play. Unfortunately for the Rays, they had no choice Monday night.
The schedule put them at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, squarely in the crosshairs of baseball’s hottest team. In the early innings, the Jays kept whacking at the piñata. When it finally split open, it was over quickly.
The Blue Jays rolled 8-1 with a 17-hit takedown of the slumping Rays, who still have the American League’s best record (89-55), despite dropping four of their last five games.
“We’ll be fine,” Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. “Tonight they were better in all facets of the game. There’s no confidence lost. It’s just a little more magnified for us right now. We’re just fine, I promise you that. ...
“We just win so much over the course of the season, everybody expects us to win day in, day out. We have so much talent in there. We’ll be fine.”
With 18 games remaining, the Rays’ lead in the AL East was reduced to eight games over the fast-charging and now-second place Blue Jays, who have won 15 of their last 17 contests (the Red Sox were 8 1/2 games back heading into Monday night’s late game at the Mariners and the victorious Yankees were nine back).
“Look, we’re a pretty good team,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, whose squad managed two hits and three base runners. “Today was one of those lopsided games. After the third or fourth inning, the game was basically over. We’ve got plenty of guys who are more than capable of stepping up.”
No one stepped up against 6-foot-6, 260-pound Blue Jays rookie right-hander Alek Manoah (6-2). It might seem hard to believe, but Manoah was overshadowed after pitching perhaps the best game of his short career. He allowed just two baserunners, while walking none and striking out 10. He had a perfect game until Joey Wendle’s two-out, fifth-inning single, then set down eight straight batters before hitting Wendle in the eighth. The Rays finally broke through on Austin Meadows’ two-out home run off reliever Trevor Richards in the ninth.
“(Manoah’s) fastball just has life on it,” Kiermaier said. “Sometimes it cuts. Sometimes it sinks. Sometimes it’s straight. And his curveball was really good. None of us even came close to touching that.”
Ordinarily, Manoah’s effort would be headline news. But not when compared with the Big Jay Machine.
After working behind opener Collin McHugh, Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (8-5) was battered. In 2 1/3 innings, Yarbrough surrendered 10 hits and seven earned runs on 77 laborious pitches.
It was the second straight subpar outing for Yarbrough, who allowed eight hits and seven earned runs over two innings at Boston on Sept. 6.
“This was kind of a continuation of the last one,” Yarbrough said. “It’s not really the best outing or feeling right now. It’s back to the drawing board and (try to) figure out what’s going on. The way things are going right now, it’s not great.”
“He just didn’t have the crispness to his pitches,” Cash said. “He didn’t have the ability to put guys away early in the count. It felt like a lot of 3-2 counts, a lot of falling behind. His stuff is a tick down right now for whatever reason. That’s a very solid lineup and they’re swinging the bat very, very well.”
How well? In their last 13 games, the Blue Jays have scored 114 runs with 36 homers — an offensive run never seen before during a major-league 13-game span.
After Yarbrough coaxed two soft outs to escape from a bases-loaded jam in the third, the two-inning, seven-run, 10-hit onslaught began.
Bo Bichette had a solo home run, but it was mostly death by paper cuts. During Yarbrough’s outing, Lourdes Guerriel Jr. had a pair of RBI singles, Breyvic Valera chipped in with three RBIs on two singles and Teoscar Hernandez (5-for-5 overall) had a single and double.
Vladimir Guerrero punctuated the scoring with his 45th homer, a solo shot, off left-hander Adam Conley in the sixth.
“It was a good old-fashioned butt-whipping to be quite honest,” Kiermaier said. “Chalk it up and move on.”
9 To make American League playoffs
11 To win East Division
Combination of wins by the Rays and losses by the No. 3 team in wild-card field (Red Sox) and the second-place team in division (Blue Jays)
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