Tampa Bay has earned at least a split of its four-game road series against Toronto, but the red-hot Rays are looking to pile on more wins.
Victorious in a major-league-best nine straight, the Rays will attempt to win their third consecutive game in the series Sunday when they face the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla.
The Rays received a boost from new shortstop Taylor Walls in his major league debut Saturday night as he replaced clubhouse favorite Willy Adames, who was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday afternoon.
Known as a slick fielder, Walls recorded five assists and started two double plays, although he did misplay Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s grounder for a fielding error in the eighth.
Batting in the eighth spot, the 24-year-old Walls went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles — one from each side — and nearly homered for his first big-league hit.
In a key moment in the ninth after his second double, he advanced on a wild pitch and raced home on the play when Toronto catcher Danny Jansen committed his second throwing error.
The heads-up play by Walls added insurance for the Rays in the 3-1 win, helping them secure the ninth straight victory — tying the second-longest winning streak in the organization’s 24-year history.
“We were all pumped — a big night for Taylor — but the baserunning may have been the highlight,” said manager Kevin Cash. “He can find ways to beat you in many ways, and that’s what he did tonight.”
The club’s longest winning streak is 12, set in 2004. The last time the Rays won nine straight was 2014.
Cash said left-hander Josh Fleming (3-3, 2.34) will work the bulk innings Sunday, either starting or behind possible starter Michael Wacha (1-1, 4.76), who was expected to be activated.
In two games against the Blue Jays – one start – Fleming is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA. Wacha has a no-decision and 3.00 ERA in one career start against them.
Having dropped four straight, Toronto will send out its third consecutive left-hander in Hyun Jin Ryu (4-2, 2.51), who has won three straight starts.
In his fifth start of 2021 against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Ryu turned in his shortest outing, lasting just 3 2/3 innings in a scoreless stint. He left the game with a minor right glute strain and landed on the 10-day injured list.
Over three career starts against Tampa Bay, Ryu has three no-decisions and a 2.70 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, with 15 strikeouts and an opponent batting average of .200.
Ryu has watched just one run from the opposition cross the plate in his last 15 innings pitched.
Offensively, first baseman Lourdes Gurriel Jr. returned to the lineup Saturday after missing two games with a bruised knee. Batting sixth, he produced two of Toronto’s six hits.
“I just believe in the kid, he hits and he’s another slow starter,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “For some reason, our team had a lot of guys having slow starts.”
The team placed infielder Cavan Biggio (cervical spine ligament strain) on the 10-day injured list and optioned pitchers Anthony Kay (Friday’s starter) and Jeremy Beasley (Friday’s losing pitcher) to Triple-A Buffalo.
Infielder Joe Panik and pitcher Anthony Castro were reinstated and activated on Saturday.
–Field Level Media