The Rogers Centre crowd roared off the bat.
With two men on in the fourth, Vlad Guerrero Jr. stung a 113.4 MPH bullet into centerfield, inspiring a momentary cheer before the liner's destination became clear — right at Manuel Margot’s outstretched glove.
The Guerrero rocket held an expected batting average of .780, but ended the way much of Toronto’s hard contact died Tuesday night. Following 52 runs in their last five games, Toronto's lineup luck finally turned. Liners found Tampa Bay gloves, scorchers failed to fall, Tampa's bullpen induced popups, and the Blue Jays couldn’t muster any support for a dealing José Berríos.
“Man we smoked so many balls tonight," catcher Reese McGuire said after the game. "But their defense was right where they needed to be."
Through six innings, the Blue Jays had five pieces of contact with expected batting averages over .400 end in outs. Just two of their six hits over 100 MPH landed for a baserunner. A collective effort of five Tampa pitchers silenced the Blue Jay bats, kickstarted by five shutout from Drew Rasmussen, and finished by the Tampa bullpen monster. The Jays finished with just three hits and were held off the scoreboard for the first time since July 23rd at the New York Mets.
The well even dried up for Lourdes Gurriel Jr., as baseball’s hottest hitter failed to reach base for the first time in the month of September. In the fifth, Gurriel timed a high-inside fastball, turning on the pitch and driving it into the right-field corner. But, the ball found an outstretched Rays glove, and Gurriel finished as one of six Toronto hitters held off the base paths.
“Overall, when you’re lining out it’s never fun," McGuire said. "And then when it’s collectively happening to everyone it’s a little frustrating. Especially because you feel like you were on to that guy. We kind of had a great approach coming in, with the starter that they threw out there, and we put some good swings on it.”
Even as Toronto liners found leather, the Jays remained just a hit away. José Berríos orchestrated his latest gem, keeping the lineup within striking distance by commanding seven innings of one-run ball, striking out four and walking none. The righty left after just 87 pitches following the seventh inning with "left abdominal tightness," manager Charlie Montoyo said. He is not set to get testing, per Montoyo, but the team will see how he feels Wednesday.
Berríos' lone mistake was a middle-middle fastball that Ji-Man Choi blistered into the right-field seats — but it was enough for the loss. With a lineup that's scored the second-most runs in baseball this year and averaged 8.8 runs per game in September, the Blue Jays couldn't find a single score Tuesday.
Per defensive runs saved, the Rays have the second-best defense in the American League and it was on full display. In the seventh, Corey Dickerson pulled a slider into the open right field. As the ball closed in on turf, the latest flash of hope for a Toronto rally, Tampa outfielder Randy Arozarena slid under the ball, smothering the hit with his glove, silencing the hope, and ending the inning.
"That's what the Rays do," Montoyo said. "They play good defense."
One batter later, Brandon Lowe bombed a solo shot to right field, stretching Tampa’s lead to two. On any night of late, a two-run lead would've appeared easy work for the Blue Jays lineup, but not with the way things broke Tuesday.