Sunday marked the official start of the 2016 Major League Baseball season. The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays were one of three games to start the season early. The Blue Jays made it to the top of the AL East, making it all the way to the ALCS in 2015. The Rays ended last season fourth in the AL East.
Sunday’s game was built on the Blue Jays capitalizing on errors made by the Rays, singles, pitching, and a few home runs.
The Blue Jays took advantage of Chris Archer’s shaky first inning. Josh Donaldson singled to right field and Jose Boutista walked right after. Archer threw a wild pitch to Edwin Encarnacion and the two basemen advanced into scoring position. Encarnacion singled to center allowing Donaldson and Boutista to score.
With the Blue Jays up 2-0 in the third inning, the Rays wanted to cut down Toronto’s lead. The Rays started the bottom of the third with a single by Hank Conger. Conger was forced out at second as Logan Forsythe reached first base. A groundout to the pitcher by Logan Morrison advanced Forsythe into scoring position. With two outs on the inning, Evan Longoria gave the Rays their first run with a line drive to right field.
Leading 2-1, Toronto capitalized once again on a mistake by the Rays. In the top of the fourth, Michael Saunders reached first base because of a fielding error by Morrison. Ryan Goins singled to right field, advancing Saunders to third. With men on the corners, Kevin Pillar sent another single towards right field to give the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead.
In the top of the eighth, the Blue Jays added two insurance runs. Troy Tulowitzki hit a 2-run homerun off of Ryan Webb to give the Blue Jays a 5-1 lead. This was the first homerun of the season in Major League Baseball.
Corey Dickerson damaged Marcus Stroman’s chance for a complete game with a home run to right field in the top of the ninth. With a single by Desmond Jennings, Stroman was taken out of the game and replaced by closer Roberto Osuna. Jennings advanced to second on a defensive difference. Kevin Kiermaier hit a line drive to center to allow Jennings to score. Conger grounded out and the Blue Jays won 5-3.
Both teams had Opening Day worthy pitching. Toronto’s Marcus Stroman went an eight strong innings with five strikeouts. Chris Archer noted how well Stroman pitched and how it was difficult for the Rays to get runs off of him. Archer knew that he was not on his game. He allowed three runs and five hits during the five innings he pitched. Despite the loss, he was proud of the way he and his teammates kept fighting until the end.
Chris Archer set a franchise Opening Day record with 12 strikeouts. He is only the fourth pitcher since 1995 to record 12 strikeouts on Opening Day (Félix Hernández, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez). Even with that accolade in mind, Archer knows that he needs to improve for his next start.
The Rays will play the second game in this four game series tonight at Tropicana Field.