street. PETERSBURG – One look at third baseman Taylor Walls’ dirt-covered uniform told you all about how the Rays defeated the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field on Thursday afternoon.
Tampa Bay is on pace for over 300 home runs this season, but its 6-3 win was marked by fewer hitting and more rushing. Hustling, an aggressive offense, and a perfect 7-for-7 streak on stolen bases was a recipe for success.
“You’re going to have to find ways to win ball games without stumbling now and then,” Walls said. “Today, we had guys on base, and we had good opportunities to take advantage of the things we had. Situations pretty much told us when [run] And we trusted him and went.”
Walls recorded two of those seven steals, which matched a season high set by Tampa Bay on May 17 against the Mets and is one shy of the franchise record. No other MLB team has stolen more than six bases in a game this season, and the last club to steal that many bases without being caught was the 2017 Nationals.
According to Walls, the Rays “felt like they had a thing” on Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah once they got on base. While first base coach Chris Prieto’s scouting report was acknowledged, no state secrets were revealed. Regardless, the club has repeatedly taken advantage of this loophole, as evidenced by the third half.
That’s when Walls stole second after a walk and then made a double steal with first baseman Luke Raley as the track runner. The throw to third by Blue Jays catcher Alejandro Kirk was low and he slid wide off third baseman Matt Chapman, allowing Walls to run home while Raleigh gained an additional 90 feet. Manuel Margo made Toronto pay for that mistake with a good first base shot that was enough to bring in Raleigh and extend Tampa Bay’s lead.
“Sometimes you have to push a little bit, and I think the players have done that,” said manager Kevin Cash. “There were a lot of single plays. A lot of steals, going to second. Stealing walls going to third was huge.”
Shortstop Wonder Franco also stole two sacks, giving him a team-high 17. After recording 10 steals over his first two seasons, Franco is on his way to becoming the first Ray to surpass 50 stolen bases since outfielder Carl Crawford did it in 2009.
Tampa Bay leads the Majors in steals (62) and attempts (78), but its stat brilliance extends to specific hustle plays that won’t be found on any statistical leaderboard.
For example, after Randy Arozarena tied the score at 1-1 with an RBI single, Brandon Lowe took off on a pitch that should have been the second out of the frame. But rather than give up, Lowe took off on first as the ball slid away from Kirk.
The hustle paid off, as the ball spun back toward the first base line. Once Kirk made it along the chalk, his throw to the bag was delayed and Lowe was ruled safe after review. Then, Harold Ramirez’s sharp fielder on second would have been a double play at the end of the first inning, but the ball was swayed by Cavan Biggio, and Ramirez bobbed away from the layup to first, allowing Arosarina to take home a fielder’s choice.
“It’s easy to assume that when you take a swing and miss, you don’t stand a chance, but Brandon recognized it and got to work,” Cash said. “Harold, he always does a good job of stepping back from the baseline.”
Going into the fourth inning, the Rays took a 5-1 lead, knocking Manoah out of the game and trailing rookie Zach Eflin, who struck out six batters and two runs over seven innings. Al-Haq said he didn’t feel good when he woke up this morning, and he knew this was going to be a “mill day” for him. Although Evelyn failed to record a strikeout, his stuff enabled him to get 12 games, including two double plays against speedy Kevin Kiermayer.
Evelyn became the first Rays starting pitcher since Mark Hendrickson in 2004 to hit at least seven innings without a hit.
“I think that’s frankly impressive, going seven innings with zero [strikeouts]said Evelyn. “I think that’s harder than doing seven innings and 10 strikeouts. It was just one of those days when I would pray, and they’d go into double plays and hook up early on.”
Next up for the Rays is a three-game series at home versus the Dodgers, starting Friday. The two powers have not met since the 2020 World Series, when Los Angeles emerged victorious in six matches.
Cash said he has a lot of great memories from the Fall Classic, despite the loss. Arozarena, in his first year, had one of the best postseason performances in MLB history. When asked what he remembers most about that Magic Tour, Wednesday explained that defeat still hurts.
“What I remember is that we lost to them,” said Arzarena, via translator Manny Navarro. “It’s a very different team. I’m looking forward to this weekend. … 2020 was 2020, and it’s in the past.”
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