Game one of the AL Wildcard series went to the Tampa Bay Rays on the strength of ace Blake Snell’s arm and a two-run home run by Manuel Margot. Snell was nearly untouchable for 5.2 innings, striking out nine Blue Jays while holding them hitless until the sixth inning. His strikeout total tied a Tampa Bay playoff record for strikeouts in a game.
Toronto got what they wanted from starter Matt Shoemaker and his piggyback Robbie Ray. The difference in this one was the silence of the Jays bats. One big indicator of Toronto’s night was Cavan Biggio who, lauded for his plate approach, ended all three at bats against Blake Snell with a swing and a miss.
The Blue Jays now face an elimination game, but have saved ace lefthander Hyun Jin Ryu for this moment. Ryu, the former Dodger, is coming off one of his strongest performances of the season, and also got an extra day of rest. Facing Ryu is strikeout specialist Tyler Glasnow, who has struck out 91 batters in just 57.1 innings this season. Based on the Blue Jays struggles in game one, this game will most likely hinge on their ability to make contact.
Hyun Jin Ryu Ready to Take Turn With Season on the LineHyun Jin Ryu faced the Tampa Bay Rays twice during the season, earning no decisions in both starts. On July 24, Ryu allowed three runs and four hits over 4.2 innings, then followed that up with six strikeouts over five innings while allowing one run on three hits on August 22. Ryu’s 3.01 FIP and 1.149 WHIP lead the team, and he has struck out 72 batters over 67 innings of work in 2020. He also faces a lineup that does not hit left handed pitching especially well.
Offensively, the young Blue Jays will need to make contact. Glasnow has better swing and miss stuff than Snell, who struck out nine Blue Jays. Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. had two hits in game one, including a double. Cavan Biggio added a double of his own, but the Jays combined for 12 strikeouts against just five hits.
Randal Grichuk has hit left handers well this season, slashing .328/.359/.590 with four home runs in 2020. Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. has slashed .350/.383/.610 with eight homers on the road this season. Gurriel’s split against righties is a team high .317/.359/.545, while Teoscar Hernandez has a team high 11 home runs against right handed pitching.
The biggest issue for the Blue Jays this season has been defense, especially in small ball situations. Toronto’s .681 defensive efficiency is among the worst in the bigs this season. The Blue Jays can ill afford to give Tampa Bay extra outs to play with, especially in the postseason where everything is magnified.
Glasnow Gets Opportunity to Close Out SeriesThe Rays feel good about their chances with Tyler Glasnow
finishing out the series against Toronto. After all, the Rays are 9-2 in Tyler Glasnow’s 11 starts this season. Glasnow’s 3.66 FIP and 1.134 WHIP are secondary to his strikeout numbers, which rank among the best in the majors. Glasnow will be making his first start against the Blue Jays this season, but has allowed six home runs in September.
Offensively, the Rays have slashed just .237/.339/.455 versus left handed pitching, posting a .794 OPS while striking out 169 times in 506 at bats. The trio of Brandon Lowe (.300/.417/.720/1.137, 6 HR), Willy Adames (.319/.396/.738/.992), and Mike Brosseau (.333/.383/.738/1.121, 4 HR) have excelled against left handed pitching and will be looked upon to spark the offense against Ryu.
Historically, playoff series are renowned for having a little known player take on the spotlight. In game one, that was Manuel Margot, whose seventh inning two run homer provided the difference in the game. The Rays managed just four hits in game one while striking out nine times.
- Tampa Bay: 1-7 in last eight playoff games as a favorite
- Tampa Bay: N/A
- Toronto: 4-1 in last five games overall
- Toronto: 7-3 in last 10 game twos of a series