Rays Snap Pair of Hitless Streaks to Knock Off Blue Jays 3-0 in Series Finale – Sports Illustrated

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If it seemed like a month of Sundays since Tampa Bay infielders Ji-Man Choi and Wander Franco have had a hit, you wouldn’t be far off. But both of them ended long hitless streaks in the sixth inning on Sunday, and it was enough to help the Rays beat Toronto 3-0 at Tropicana Field. 

Franco, Tampa Bay’s star-on-the-rise shortstop, had an 0-for-18 cooler going before getting a single to left in the sixth. And Choi, who hadn’t had a hit since April 26, also had an RBI single to break his own 0-for-18 scuffle.

Two 0-for-18 streaks gone, in one inning. That’s a much-needed break for the Rays.

Franco, the 21-year-old, got off to a torrid start this season, but he’s struggled of late. Most recently, he went four-plus games without a hit and saw his batting average drop to a season-low .286. He was hitting just .240 in May after batting .313 in April. 

“It feels good. Nobody wants to go that long without getting a hit. But it feels good to finally get it, and it felt great (to help get a win),” Franco said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “I hope so, too (in regards to the hit maybe starting a hot streak). I’ve got to thank God and keep faith in him to keep it going.

“I’ve tried to just keep things normal. It’s part of the game, and I just tried to stay the same.”

That sixth-inning outburst was all the Rays needed to clinch the series too, because their pitching was sensational from start to finish. Left-hander Jeffrey Springs, who is being slowly stretched out to a starter’s role, pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings to get things rolling. He allowed only four hits, and left with two outs in the fifth after an Alejandro Kirk double, but reliever Matt Wisler got the last out, a pop-out to first from Toronto center fielder Raimel Tapia.

“We wanted to tack on another inning for him, and against a lineup that’s really good with a ton of righties, he had it going,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said of Spring. “He got a lot of pop-ups and a lot of outs early in counts.

“He gets outs, and he’s pretty quick at it. He hasn’t changed his mix (since coming out of the bullpen), but he bounces back so well. He’s done a really good doing (the extended workload).” 

Springs started the season in the bullpen and never faced more than four batters in his first six games. He allowed only one run in April, in 9 2/3 innings. Last week in Oakland, the Rays stretched him out a bit and he threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and getting 10 outs on just 31 pitches.

He got his first start last Monday and retired the first 10 batters he faced. He made one mistake, a three-run homer to Jared Walsh, but was spectacular otherwise.

“I’m just trying to be as efficient as possible because I know pitch count dictates a lot,” Springs said. “They’re a good team and they spoiled a lot of good pitches. 

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“Just keeping us in the game, that was the goal, go as deep as possible and give us a chance to win. I’m definitely happy with how it went.” 

The Rays finally put something together in the sixth inning, and then capitalized when the Blue Jays got sloppy at the same time.

Designated hitter Brandon Lowe got things started with a one-out bloop single to center and then Wander Franco snapped an 0-for-18 drought with a single to left, and Lowe stopped at second. Harold Ramirez hit a slow chopper that third baseman Matt Chapman fielded and hurried a throw to second that wound up in right field for an error, and Lowe scored.

That doesn’t usually happen with Chapman, who’s considered one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him, in eight years of watching him play, ever do that, but it was good to have some guys on base (before the error) to allow some of those things to happen. Manoah is really good, and came as advertised, very tough. The good thing was we were finally able to get to him and put some pressure on him and put some pressure on their defense.”

With runners at second and third, Franco then scored on a wild pitch from starter Alek Manoah to make it 2-0. It was the first wild pitch of Manoah’s career in 147 innings. Ji-Man Choi then broke his own 0-for-18 hitless streak that’s stretched over a couple of Sundays with a single to left, scoring Ramirez.

The Rays bullpen did its thing once again. Wisler pitched a perfect sixth, J.P. Feyereisen allowed only a walk in the seventh and Colin Poche tossed a 1-2-3 eighth. 

Andrew Kittredge, who has had an eventful week, came on to pitch the ninth for Tampa Bay. 

Beating Manoah was a big deal. It was his first loss since last August, covering 14 starts and eight straight wins. ERA numbers …. 

For Springs and the Rays to get a win — especially a division win against an ace pitcher — it was a big deal.

“He’s a good pitcher, and we knew that coming in. I loved the competition aspect of me versus him, so to speak. They’re a good team, and you want to play as well as possible and bring your A game. I definitely liked the challenge for sure.”

The Rays, now 21-14 on the season, open a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night. With the win over the Blue Jays, they are now 7-2 against American League opponents this season.

  • JUST FOR STARTERS: Jeffrey Springs was terrific in his second start of the season on Sunday, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings for Tampa Bay against the Toronto Blue Jays. Here’s our daily ”Just For Starters” segment breaking down his day, along with cumulative numbers for the entire starting rotation all season. CLICK HERE
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