April 17, 2012
Bautista helps Jays beat Rays
By Mike Rutsey, QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - The Tampa Bay Rays are more than just a collection of good players who are a recurring threat to win the East Division pennant.
They are a team that regularly tortures the Blue Jays — like a youngster zapping an ant with a magnifying glass.
To finish ahead of the Rays, the Jays had better figure out a way of beating them, a chore that has eluded them for the past number of years.
Last year the Jays went 6-12 against the Rays which represented the fewest number of wins versus any of their East Division opponents in 2011.
So it behooved the Jays to start 2012 on the right note.
Helping the Jays achieve that goal Tuesday was an uncharacteristically poor defensive game from Tampa’s all-star third baseman Evan Longoria. He committed three errors — two fielding, one throwing for a career high — and they led to three unearned runs in a game the Jays would win by a 7-3 margin.
Longoria’s gaffes aside, the Jays also received an effective one-two combination of Jose Bautista and Adam Lind, whose efforts contributed greatly to the Jays win.
Starter Ricky Romero, meanwhile, wasn’t great but he was good enough in his six innings plus two batters as he held the Rays to three runs on eight hits and received rock solid defence behind him.
Bautista had himself a pretty good game just in the opening inning alone.
In the top of the inning he made a fine defensive play in right when he scooped up a one-hopper off the wall by Carlos Pena and fired a dart to Yunel Escobar at second, his throw beating Pena to the bag by about 10 feet.
Perhaps still fired up by his outfield assist, Bautista then crushed the second pitch he saw from Jeff Niemann and ripped it into the second deck in left for his second home run of the season and first since Opening Day.
The game also saw Lind get off the schneid when in their three-run third, he stroked a two-run home run into the Jays bullpen in left. It marked his first home run of the season.
Then in the seventh he poked a single to left on a 3-2 count scoring Escobar from third. It was his third hit and RBI of the game.
The third inning was set up by back-to-back fielding errors by Longoria. His first error was dubious as J.P. Arencibia hit a one-hop rocket that bounced off Longoria’s chest. Longoria collected the ball but his four-hop throw to first was too late to retire Arencibia.
With one out and runners on the corners, Bautista drove in his second run of the game with a sac fly to left.
Two pitches later, Lind made it 4-0.
The Rays made a game of it starting in the fifth when they scored two runs on RBI singles by Reid Brignac and Chris Gimenez.
It could have been more as with runners on second and third and two out, Romero struck out Carlos Pena as he got him to chase a breaking ball on a full count.
The Rays’ third run came on a solo homer by Matt Joyce in the seventh.
Despite the importance of getting off on the right foot against the Rays this season, manager John Farrell still didn’t want to hype this series as anything more or less important than the others.
“I don’t want to de-emphasize any series or put too much emphasis on three games,” Farrell said. “This is a good team. We’re going to get good pitching thrown at us, we know that. I like to think we’re better equipped to play the types of games that we’re just now discussing, low-run games, the ability to manufacture runs in given situations. But we fully anticipate some relatively low-scoring games.”
Earlier, the conversation Farrell was referring to was how the Jays have been involved in close games where they have not lost by more than two runs in any of them.
“Playing close-knit games is a good thing,” Farrell said. “It allows us to eventually take advantage of all the small things we worked on in spring training and I think there have been a couple of games where some of those minor details have had a positive impact on the game, whether it’s how we’ve run the bases or some defensive execution that we’ve gone through.
“I don’t think we play tight in close games. I think guys relish the fact that when games are close, a key defensive play will have a positive effect when it’s executed. I think our guys have not only shown the ability to be resilient but have done a very good job in those type of games.”
The defence helped Romero Tuesday with a trio of double plays plus the effort by Bautista in right.
Still, you can’t count on Longoria making three errors every night. The Rays rarely come bearing gifts.