When the Tampa Bay Rays continue their three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays in the second game on Saturday evening in St. Petersburg, Fla., there will be two managers with roots in the Tampa Bay area.
Rays manager Kevin Cash grew up in Tampa and spent one season of his eight-year major-league playing career with Tampa Bay. Cash became the Rays’ manager before the 2015 season.
Then there is Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who has even more history with the Rays than Cash does.
Montoyo was part of the then-Devil Rays organization before the team played its first big-league game in 1998. In 1997, Montoyo managed the Rays’ rookie-level team in Princeton, W.Va. He worked his way up, managing at every level in the Tampa Bay system through 2014 before joining the major-league club.
Montoyo served as a bench coach and third-base coach for Cash for four seasons before he was hired for the top job in Toronto after the 2018 season.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Montoyo and Cash have similar managerial styles. Both are innovators — Montoyo with his four-man outfield and Cash with his strategy of using an opener to pitch the first few innings of a game.
Their philosophies are similar — you win with good pitching, good defense and hope that your superstars — Wander Franco for the Rays and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., for the Blue Jays — come through in the clutch and that other guys can deliver just enough from time to time.
The latter scenario took place Friday night for the Rays, who rode a three-run eighth inning to a 5-2 victory.
Although Guerrero did have a run-scoring single and Raimel Tapia had two hits and an RBI, the rest of Toronto’s bats were quiet. That’s been the case too often lately as the Blue Jays have lost five consecutive games.
“What happens when everybody struggles with men in scoring position is everybody presses more because everybody tries harder,” Montoyo said. “That’s what’s going on right now. It takes one guy to get hot with runners in scoring position, and others are going to follow.”
However, Blue Jays outfielder George Springer might not be one of those guys in the short term. He suffered an ankle injury trying to catch a ball near the wall on Friday and exited in the third inning. Montoyo said it’s uncertain how much time Springer will miss.
Tampa Bay’s bats were better when it mattered most Friday. The decisive eighth-inning rally featured RBI singles by Manuel Margot and Francisco Mejia and an RBI triple by Brandon Lowe. But that came after the Rays squandered a 2-0 lead.
“Nothing is easy in this league,” Cash said. “And certainly not in this division.”
Tampa Bay has won two in a row and eight of its past 11 games.
The Blue Jays will look to left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu (0-0, 13.50 ERA) to stop their losing streak, but he hasn’t made it past the fourth inning in either of his starts this year.
The Rays will counter with left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (0-0, 6.14), who threw five scoreless innings against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday.
Yarbrough is 8-2 with a 3.23 ERA in 17 career appearances (eight starts) against Toronto. Ryu has no decisions and a 2.70 ERA in four lifetime starts against Tampa Bay.
–Field Level Media