With their bats turned silent, the Tampa Bay Rays made two moves in recent days to get their struggling offense moving. The Toronto Blue Jays make a move of their own.
The teams will meet Wednesday afternoon in the finale of a two-game series at St. Petersburg, Fla., after the Blue Jays won the opener 3-1 on Tuesday. Toronto’s Kevin Gausman allowed only one hit in eight scoreless innings, walking one and striking out 10.
The Rays, who have lost eight of their last 10 games, tried to jump-start their slumping offense by making two trades ahead of Tuesday’s deadline. They added outfielders David Peralta (from the Arizona Diamondbacks) and Jose Siri (from the Houston Astros in a three-team deal), but there has been no early return on those deals.
Peralta went 0-for-3 against Toronto on Tuesday, leaving him 1-for-7 through two games with his new team. Siri was 0-for-3 on Tuesday in his Tampa Bay debut.
The Rays keep talking about trying to stay afloat until key players such as Wander Franco, Harold Ramirez and Manuel Margot come back from key injuries in late August or early September.
“With (center fielder Kevin) Kiermaier out (for the season), we’ll just put (Peralta and Siri) out there and see where it goes,” Rays general manager Peter Bendix said during an in-game interview with Bally Sports on Tuesday. “We feel they’ll fit in seamlessly.”
That kind of talk is getting old, and Rays manager Kevin Cash knows his offense has to improve — soon. Tampa Bay has scored more than three runs just twice in the past 10 games.
“You can hope,” Cash said after the game, “but you’ve got to do a little better than that, though.”
The Rays might have trouble finding their stroke on Wednesday against Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi (4-5, 4.89 ERA). The left-hander has dominated Tampa Bay in his career, going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three career appearances. He threw six innings of one-run ball and struck out eight in a 4-1 win on June 30 in Toronto.
The Blue Jays have won 12 of 15 games since John Schneider took over as interim manager, and they are 8-2 since the All-Star break.
Just before the deadline, Toronto made a deal with the Kansas City Royals for second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield, a two-time All-Star who can run and has great versatility.
The one major asterisk attached to the deal is that Merrifield was one of 10 Kansas City players who was not allowed to make a mid-July trip to Toronto because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Whitfield, however, sounded as if he could change his mind about getting the shot.
“Right or wrong, I didn’t do it on a whim,” Merrifield said last month. “It’s been a long thought process. I understand what Canada has in place right now. …
“If what was standing between me and the playoffs was this vaccine, I would consider getting it. I didn’t say I would get it for another team, or wouldn’t get it for this team, it was simply a point about showing how much I value playing in the playoffs.”
Time is on his side, as the Blue Jays won’t play at home until Aug. 12 against the Cleveland Guardians.
The Rays will use their “opener” concept on Wednesday, starting Jalen Beeks (1-2, 2.36 ERA). The left-hander allowed just one run in 8 2/3 innings over five appearances, including one start, during July.
–Field Level Media