The visiting Tampa Bay Rays hope to cool down surging Bo Bichette when their five-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays resumes Tuesday with a day-night doubleheader.
Bichette had all three RBIs Monday night, including the go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth against Jason Adam, in Toronto’s 3-2 victory in the series opener.
The Blue Jays (79-61) slipped past the Rays (78-61) and into a tie with the Seattle Mariners for the first American League wild-card spot by a half game.
Bichette’s homer was his 24th of the season and his sixth in the past eight games. He has reached base safely in each of the past 11 games, batting .511 (24-for-47) with six doubles, one triple, seven homers and 21 RBIs.
“It’s kind of remarkable,” Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said. “It’s the kind of hitter that he is, that he can be, and I think he is locked in right now and not missing pitches, taking pitches. His plan is great, his execution is better.”
Due to those impressive numbers, Bichette was recently named AL Player of the Week.
“Obviously, he’s swinging the bat well and he got us,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve got to start to get some things going offensively. We’re fully capable of doing that.”
Monday’s victory came in the opener of an eight-game homestand for the Blue Jays, who were returning from an 8-2 road trip.
But tempers also flared in the win.
In the sixth inning, Javy Guerra hit Bichette with a 97 mph sinker that came dangerously close to his head. In the following inning, Toronto starter Jose Berrios hit Francisco Mejia with a pitch and both benches were warned.
The Blue Jays scratched scheduled Game 1 starter Alek Manoah (14-7, 2.42 ERA) after the right-hander woke up with a stomach bug. He was getting rest and treatment and could be ready for the nightcap.
Right-hander Julian Merryweather (0-2, 5.48) replaced Manoah for the opener. He has faced Tampa Bay three times in his career, allowing no runs on one hit across 3 1/3 innings.
The Rays will counter with left-hander Jeffrey Springs (7-4, 2.54) in the opener. Springs is 1-0 with a 3.07 ERA in eight career games (one start) against Toronto.
Neither team has named a starter for Game 2 of the doubleheader.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco did not start Monday, but grounded out as a pinch hitter. Cash said he was being rested.
Jonathan Aranda, who had an RBI single in the second inning Monday, has earned more playing time. He has hit safely in eight of his 12 career major league games, going 10-for-26 (.385).
“Every one of his at-bats that I can recall have been very competitive and he’s had good results,” Cash said. “So we want to see what he can do and try to find a way where we can get him a little bit more consistency.”
Rays left-hander Brooks Raley will not pitch in Toronto because he has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Rays added Cooper Criswell to the active roster Monday and selected right-handers Guerra and Kevin Herget while optioning right-handers Calvin Faucher and Luis Patino to Triple-A Durham.
Criswell allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings Monday in his second career major league outing.
–Field Level Media