ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 03: Outfielder B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates his two run walkoff home run against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field on May 3, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Rays Beat Blue Jays 3-2 As BJ Upton Hits Walk-Off Homerun

It looked like the Rays would go quietly into the night, but then Ben Zobrist hit a single and B.J. Upton got a fastball down the middle. The rest is history.

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Rays Beat Blue Jays 3-2 As BJ Upton Hits Walk-Off Homerun

Last night’s game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays was surprisingly dull up until the ninth inning. The Jays had tacked one a run or two early in the game against a shaky Wade Davis, and it looked like the Rays were going to go quietly against closer Jon Rauch. But then Rauch let up a single to Ben Zobrist and grooved a fastball to B.J. Upton….and just like that, the Rays had themselves a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays.

This game was Evan Longoria’s first back from the disabled list, and true to his word, Evan Longoria looked a little rusty at the plate today, going 1-4 with two strikeouts, but his defense was as phenomenal as always. Who else in the league makes this play? It’s easy to forget how good he is when he’s not around, but Rays fans are spoiled getting to watch him all the time.

Also, while it will likely take Longo a couple days to get his timing down, he didn’t look that bad at the plate tonight to me. His first handful of at bats were quick, as the Rays seemed to be swinging early in the count against Jo-Jo Reyes, but he worked two long at bats late in the game and ripped one hard hit foul ball deep down the left field line.

While Longoria looked okay in his return, I’m still not impressed with the new Wade Davis. Despite getting into lots of trouble in the first few innings (and working himself out of it, for the most part), Davis managed to hang around through six innings. He allowed nine baserunners over those six innings, though, and eight of them came within the first four innings. He was good at attacking batters and getting ahead in counts for most of the game, but late in the game he started to falter and have more trouble with his command.

Including last night’s game, Davis has now thrown to 164 batters this season and only struck out 17 of them (in other words, 3.9 K/9). It’s still early in the season and a lot can change, but strikeout rates normally stabilize at 150 batters faced, so there’s something more than just that going on here.

Also, Brandon Gomes made his major league debut last night, and he was about as efficient and effective as you could ask. Gomes entered the game in the 7th inning after Wade Davis left, and he plowed through his first inning in only 7 pitches. While he didn’t strike out anyone – and did start off the majority of the at bats with a ball – Gomes seemed to have good stuff out there. He primarily used his fastball, throwing it 62% of the time and topping out at 92 MPH, but he also threw a couple 78 MPH sliders (curveballs?). All in all, not a bad first major league outing.

After B.J. Upton hit his walkoff homerun to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, Evan Longoria pied him with a chocolate pie. The pictures are something else – talk about a goopy mess. As weird as the pie was, though, I bet BJ enjoyed being the hero last night.

The Rays and Blue Jays face again tomorrow, as Brandon Morrow faces Jeff Niemann at 6:40 PM.


Tampa Bay Rays Vs. Toronto Blue Jays: Game 1 Lineups Without Felipe Lopez

The Rays, making a move to active third baseman Evan Longoriahave designated infielder Felipe Lopez for assignment, meaning the team has a few days to either trade Lopez, release him, or try to pass him through waivers and into the minor leagues. Lopez, originally signed to a minor league deal, came up following Longoria's injury and had been serving as the Rays cleanup hitter for a number of games. Lately, though, he has been struggling at the plate and was recently benched for not running out a ground ball.

The Rays will be sending out the lineup for left-handed pitchers tonight, featuring Sean Rodriguez, Kelly Shoppach, Dan Johnson, and the switch-hitting Elliot Johnson. The lineup according to TBO Rays:

Sam Fuld LF
Johnny Damon DH
Evan Longo 3B
Ben Zobrist RF
B.J. Upton CF
Sean Rodriguez 2B
Kelly Shoppach C
Dan Johnson 1B
Elliot Johnson SS

It appears Rays manager Joe Maddon has decided to slot Casey Kotchman and Dan Johnson into a straight platoon. Johnson, who has shown a neutral split throughout his career, appears to be the historically better hitter, but with Kotchman hitting well lately, the Rays are probably eager to find any spots for him to play.


Rays Face Jays In Longoria's Return

The Tampa Bay Rays return from their day off a much better team. Evan Longoria, out since April 2nd with an oblique strain, will make his return tonight. Widely considered one of the league's best third basemen, Longoria will bring with him not only his stellar defense, but intimidating hitting. In his three Double-A rehab starts, Longoria collect a nifty sum of statistics, going 3 for 11 with 2 home runs and a walk.

Starting on the mound for the Rays tonight will be righty Wade Davis (3-2, 2.73 ERA, 3.55 FIP) who has pitched into the 7th inning in 4 of his 5 starts. Advanced statistics like left on base percentage and expected FIP seem to indicate Davis has been somewhat lucky in the early going this year, but he still seems to be improving and is well on his way to becoming an elite third starter.

Opposing the Rays will be pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes (0-2, 5.48 ERA, 3.58 FIP) who faced the Rays on the 22nd and went 7 innings, allowing 4 runs. The Rays hope to face much better against Reyes this time around, considering Reyes has not reached the 5th inning 3 times already this season and is coming off a performance against Texas where he lasted only 2 and 2/3rds innings.

Game time: 5:40 p.m. ET at Tropican Field
Radio: WDAE 620, WGES 680
TV: Sun Sports HD
Tickets: via DRaysBay

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