Rays’ twin tormentors, Yarbrough and Lowe, burn the Blue Jays again

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The Blue Jays keep talking about creating noise in the second half of the season.


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But in closing out the first portion, they’ve had two games of quiet bats, breakdowns on the mound and some fundamental mistakes against the team immediately ahead of them in second place in the AL East.

With one game to go against the Tampa Bay Rays before the all-star break, there were some long faces in the dugout on Saturday at the end of a 5-2 loss at Tropicana Field.

Ryan Yarbrough and Brandon Lowe had their way with the Jays again. Lefty Yarbrough, with the most wins against Toronto since 2018, overcame a Marcus Semien homer to improve his career record against the Jays to 8-1.

There was some early optimism when Yarbrough walked two of the first three men he faced, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was caught off first base by a throw from the plate and the Jays came up empty. Toronto starter Ross Stripling then gave up a first-pitch homer to Lowe and the Jays were quickly down 1-0.


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Semien belted his 22nd of the year — a two-run shot and the most round-trippers by any Jays middle infielder at the break — in the third inning.

But a second blast by Lowe, his third multi-homer game versus Toronto, and another by shot Mike Zunino, in their half of the third, put the Rays back ahead for good.

Stripling had given up just six homers since the last week in May.

“Physically, I felt fine, but it was really count leverage,” Stripling said. “The first homer, I didn’t execute and he punished me. Zunino’s was a 1-0 pitch. They did damage in the counts where I couldn’t get ahead. I still had strikeouts (five) and, if anything, I’m more upset about the two walks (that signalled his exit).”

Like Alek Manoah in Friday’s 7-1 loss, Stripling lasted just 3.2 innings, while Yarbrough scattered five hits through his five.


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“Yarbrough made an adjustment and got himself by us again,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “You don’t see that very often, a guy facing that good of a lineup that many times and still has success.”
But the top six in the Jays order have had just two extra-base hits in the series.
In relief of Yarbrough, Matt Wisler and Pete Fairbanks struck out five, with a two-out pinch-hit double by Reese McGuire in the seventh inning the only ripple.

With a shaky Diego Castillo in for the save, a ninth-inning error sent Santiago Espinal to the plate as the tying run, but he grounded out.

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The well-known Montoyo optimism has been put to the test at Tropicana.

On Friday, it was Teoscar Hernandez’s lackadaisical approach to a fly ball that moved the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters of the Rays up to to score. The Jays also got nothing out of a two-out, bases-loaded situation in the first inning of that game and began Saturday’s match with runners on first and third before Guerrero was picked off first by Zunino.


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“When you have Yarbrough on the ropes, it kind of sucks when somebody is picked off,” Montoyo said. “But Vladdy’s having a good year, he was being aggressive and you have to give their catcher credit. I wouldn’t say that was the game (turning point), but of course you didn’t want that to happen. It was a base-running mistake, but that will happen. It’s a long year.”

In the fourth, Randal Grichuk bounced into a double play, an issue with him all season, that took at least one potential run away when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. followed with a double off the wall.

And confusion on a ninth-inning relay saw no throw home and Austin Meadows scored from second on a single with the insurance run.


At least the Jays are guaranteed to go into the break above .500. Their fourth loss in five games leaves them at 44-42, but Montoyo is convinced they won’t fade from the wild-card race.


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Six potential wild-card teams have as many or more wins than Toronto.
“It’s been a tough schedule, we’re battling, we’re over .500, which is all great,” Montoyo said.

“But at the end of the day, it’s going to come down to pitching and defence. That’s the one thing we have to improve on and fight for the division. We are swinging the bats. Everyone knows that our stars are doing a good job for the most part. But we have to play better defence.

“We have young guys who are improving, who are a lot better than last year. The teams on top now are pitching- and defence-first and that’s what we need to get to. An example is the Rays.”


Sportsnet reports that after Sunday’s game, three of the Jays all-stars, Semien, Bo Bichette and Hernandez, will conveniently hop on the Rays charter flight to Denver. It’s ferrying AL manager Kevin Cash, his coaches and the Rays stars. Guerrero has his own charter scheduled with 10 family members.

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