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MLB Preview: Toronto Blue Jays (26-23) at Tampa Bay Rays (35-15)

TORONTO BLUE JAYS NOTES:

THE LATEST: The Blue Jays blasted their way to a 20-1 win over the Rays last night…The 20 runs were the most scored by any team this season and tied with the 20-11 win in Tampa Bay on June 25, 2002 for 4th most in team history…The 27 hits and +19 run differential last night were both 2nd highest in franchise history, trailing last season’s 29 hits and +23 during a 28-5 win on July 22 at BOS…Their collective .519 (27-for-52) batting average was the highest in a single game in team history (.512 (22-for-43) on June 24, 2008 vs. CIN). Toronto snapped its five-game losing streak with the win…Is now 6-13 in divisional games this season.

AIN’T THAT GRAND: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was a large part of a nine-run 9th inning last night as he belted his 4th career grand slam (last: April 27, 2021 vs. WAS)…Marked his 8th home run of the season, all coming in road contests. The 24-year-old also singled twice for a 3-for-6 night with a total of six RBI, one off his career best (7 on April 27, 2021 vs. WAS)…Among AL batters, is now T-6th in hits (54), T-9th in RBI (33), and T-11th in AVG (.300)…Has also recorded an AL-best 86 hard-hit balls (95+ MPH) this season, four ahead of 2ndplace Bo Bichette (82).

SPRINGER HAS SPRUNG: George Springer finished a double shy of the cycle as he registered his 1st triple and 7th home run of the season…Finished 4-for-5 with three runs and two RBI…Has reached base multiple times in each of his last five games (11-for-21, 4BB)…Has one 18-for-49 (.367) with a double, a triple, three home runs, eight RBI, and seven walks during his last 12 contests (1.059 OPS).

STAT CHAPMAN: Matt Chapman belted a two-run homer in the 9th last night, his 7th of the year…Has two home runs in his last three games after going 28 games without any… Also singled to finish 2-for-5 with a walk and three RBI. The third baseman leads all MLB hitters with 19 doubles this season (2nd: Freddie Freeman – 18) while tied for 2nd with 26 extra-base hits (Freeman – 28)…Among AL batters, ranks 5th in hits (55), 7th in OBP (.382), T-7th in total bases (95), 8th in OPS (.904), and 9th in AVG (.302)…Continues to lead all MLB hitters in hard-hit percentage (62.5) this season (2nd: Aaron Judge – 60.6) while 2nd in barrel rate (15.0%), 5th in hard-hit balls (80), and 7th in average exit velocity (94.4 MPH).

PUTTING IN EXTRAS WORK: Danny Jansen also hit a two-run homer in the 9th last night, capping Toronto’s first three-homer inning June 10, 2022 at DET…Was his 6th blast of the year and 3rd in his last seven games…Also doubled twice to finish 3-for-6 with three runs scored and three RBI…Marked his 5th career game with three extra-base hits, two more than any other catcher in franchise history (2nd: John Buck – 3G).

BO KNOWS BASE HITS: Bo Bichette recorded a trio of singles as he finished 3-for-5 while scoring twice last night…His eight games of 3+ hits this season lead the Majors while his 19 multi-hit games lead all AL hitters and are one back of Freddie Freeman (20) for the MLB lead. The 25-year-old leads all MLB hitters with 68 hits (2nd: Freeman – 65) and leads the AL with 105 total bases (2nd: Luis Robert Jr. – 102)…His .324 batting average now ranks 1st in the AL (2nd: Yandy Díaz – .322).

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The Blue Jays are on a seven-day, seven-game road trip (1-1 so far)…After this four-game set in Tampa Bay, will head to Minnesota (25-24) for three contests over the weekend…Own a 13-14 road record this year for a .481 win% (8th in the AL). Blue Jays hitters lead the Majors with 263 road hits (2nd: LAA – 236)…Rank 2nd in the AL in road AVG (.271), 3rd in road OBP (.336), 2nd in road SLG
(.444), and 2nd in road OPS (.780)…The pitching staff ranks 12th in the AL in road ERA (4.55), 13th in road opponents’ batting average (.264), and 13th in road WHIP (1.37).

RUN WHIT IT: Whit Merrifield singled twice and picked up his 10th double last night…Finished 3-for-6, scored a season-high three runs, and swiped his 14th base, tied for 2nd most in the AL (1st: Esteury Ruiz – 25)…Has hits in each of his last five games while going 10-for-19 (.526) with two extra-base hits and three RBI.

JOSÉ HAS HIS WAY: José Berríos tossed 7.0 frames of one-run ball last night, allowing five hits to go with two walks and five strikeouts…Has a 2.81 ERA (8 ER/25.2 IP) across his last four starts.

ERNIE-ING IT: Ernie Clement was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo yesterday and made his Blue Jays debut as he took over shortstop in the 8th inning…Assisted on three outs and also singled in his only at-bat.

QUITE A STRETCH: The Blue Jays are in the midst of playing 17 games in 17 days, their most consecutive days with scheduled games this season…Have gone 5-7 so far…Their opponents over this 17-game stretch (ATL, NYY, BAL, TB, MIN) have a combined record of 150-95 (.612).

NO DONUTS DIET: The Blue Jays have notched an MLB-high 458 hits this season…Are currently 3rd in the AL in team AVG (.266), 3rd in OBP (.335), 4th in OPS (.756), and 6th in SLG (.422). The Blue Jays are one of two AL teams who have scored in every game this season (also: LAA)…Have gone 67 straight games without being shut out, the 2nd-longest active streak in the Majors (LAA – 91G).

VS. THE RAYS: All-Time: 203-240
2023: 3-2 Road: 88-134
Road: 1-1 Tropicana Field: 88-131
The Blue Jays handed the Rays their 1st series loss of the season as they took two of three games when the clubs met last month at Rogers Centre…Went 9-10 vs. TB last year, including a 4-5 record at Tropicana Field…Have not bested the Rays in a season series since going 10-9 in 2017.

Bo Bichette went 7-for-13 (.538) with two doubles and two RBI in the three games vs. the Rays in April… Has now hit .270 (61-for-226) with 13 doubles, seven home runs, and 27 RBI in 55 career contests vs. TB.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. picked up a hit in all three meetings with the Rays in April, going 3-for-11 (.273) with two walks and an RBI…Is a lifetime 69-for-262 (.263) across 66 games against the Rays, including 17 doubles, two triples, 12 homers, and 42 RBI (.806 OPS).

Brandon Belt has multiple hits in four of his 12 career games played vs. Tampa Bay…Has now gone a combined 13-for-37 (.351) with one double, one triple, four home runs, eight RBI, and five walks since the 2013 season (1.199 OPS).

STARTING PITCHER – Yusei Kikuchi, LHP #16
TODAY’S GAME: Making his 10th start of the season and his 6th on the road…Took his 1st loss of the year his last time out, on 5/19 vs. BAL, giving up 3 runs on 3 hits and a season-high 4 walks over 4.2 innings with 3 punchouts. Making his 100th career MLB start tonight, becoming the 11th Japanese-born player to reach the century mark…With 7 strikeouts, will become the 9th Japanese-born player to reach 500 career punchouts and 500.0 career innings pitched in the Majors.

2023 HIGHLIGHTS:
Lasted 4.0+ frames on 5/14 vs. ATL, allowing 5R/4ER on 9 hits…Struck out 7 without issuing a walk. Improved to 5-0 his on 5/7 at PIT, tossing 6.1 shutout frames with 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts…Marked his longest outing as a Blue Jay, and his 3rd quality start this season. Took a no-decision on 5/2 at BOS, giving up 5 runs on a season-high-tying 9 hits with a pair of strikeouts. Improved to 4-0 on 4/26 vs. CWS, throwing 5.2 frames of shutout ball while scattering four singles and a walk along with eight strikeouts…Has allowed one run or fewer in four of his five starts this year while the Blue Jays have won all five of his outings. Earned his 3rd win of the year on 4/21 at NYY, tossing 6.0 frames of one-run ball with 4 hits, 2 walks, and 3 strikeouts…Has back-to-back starts of 6.0+ innings and 0-or-1 runs allowed for the first time since 6/18-25 of his 2021 All-Star campaign. Improved to 2-0 on 4/15 vs. TB, throwing 6.0 innings of one-run ball with 4 hits, a walk, and a season-high 9 strikeouts…Marked his most punchouts in a single game as a Blue Jay…Completed 6.0 frames for the 1st time since 6/30/22 vs. TB. Took a no-decision on 4/9 at LAA, giving up 6 runs on 9 hits and a walk over 4.1 innings with 6 strikeouts…Threw 99 pitches (59 strikes) on the day, his most pitches in a single outing since 7/28/21 vs. HOU (101). Picked up the win in his season debut on 4/4 at KC, tossing 5.0 innings of one-run ball with 3 hits, a walk, and 2 strikeouts…Was his 1st start since 8/15/22 vs. BAL, and his 1st win as a starter since 7/28/22 vs. DET.

TAMPA BAY RAYS NOTES:

WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS — The Rays fell behind 10-0 in the fifth inning en route to a 20-1 loss to the visiting Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field…3B Isaac Paredes (1-for-4, HR, RBI, R) plated Tampa Bay’s lone run with a fifth-inning solo homer, his seventh long ball of the season…the 19-run loss marked the largest margin of defeat in club history, surpassing an 18-run setback on 7/23/02 at Boston (G1)…the 20 runs allowed were the Rays most since 8/11/21 at Boston (20-8 L).

RHP Taj Bradley (4.0IP, 9H, 4ER, 7SO) took the loss after striking out seven over four innings of work…Bradley (34SO, 4BB) joins Joe Ross (34SO, 3BB) as the only pitchers in MLB history (since 1901) with 30+ strikeouts and four or fewer walks through their first five career starts.

Toronto pushed across nine runs in the ninth inning, the most runs Tampa Bay has allowed a single frame since 7/27/11 at Oakland (9R, 4th inn.).

50-GAME CHECK-IN — Tampa Bay’s 35-15 record marks the best 50-game start in club history, ahead of the 2010 Rays (34-16)…the club’s 297 runs scored and 95 homers are both the most through 50 games in franchise history, ahead of the 2009 Rays (282R) and 2016 Rays (71HR), respectively…Tampa Bay’s .844 OPS is its highest through 50 games, ahead of the 2009 club (.803), while its .500 slugging pct. surpasses the 1999 Rays (.450) for the best mark in franchise history.

Randy Arozarena’s 37 RBI are tied for sixth most by any player through Tampa Bay’s first 50 games and are the most since Evan Longoria (41RBI) in 2006.

Wander Franco’s 14 stolen bases are tied for sixth most by a Rays player through the club’s first 50 games and are the most since Carl Crawford (15SB) and B.J. Upton (14SB) in 2010…Franco’s 15 doubles are tied for fifth most in the same timeframe, including the most since Joey Wendle (15 2B) in 2021.

IT STARTS WITH SHANE — The Rays are 9-1 in games started by Shane McClanahan, tying NYY Gerrit Cole (9-2) for the most team wins in games started by a pitcher…the last Rays pitcher that saw the club win nine of their first 10 starts in a season was Matt Moore in 2013 (9-1)…with a win today, McClanahan will become the third pitcher in Rays history to begin a season 8-0, joining Moore (8-0 in 2013) and Charlie Morton (8-0 in 2019).

McClanahan has received 8.05 runs of support per 9.0 IP, the third-highest mark among qualified pitchers behind only TEX Martín Pérez (10.22) and ATL Charlie Morton (8.08).

The Rays won each of McClanahan’s first seven starts, the second-longest team winning streak in a pitcher’s starts to open a season in Rays history, behind only Matt Moore’s nine-start run in 2013…it also tied the fourth-longest single-season streak in Rays history (longest: Blake Snell, 10GS from 8/10-9/29, 2018).

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE — Tampa Bay’s 22-5 record at Tropicana Field marks MLB’s best 27-game start at home since the 2020 Minnesota Twins (also 22-5)…the Rays are the fourth team in the Wild Card Era (since 1995) to win 22 of their first 27 home games, joining the 2020 Twins, 2008 Boston Red Sox and 1998 New York Yankees (all 22-5).

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE — The Rays 76 walks during the month of May are second most in the AL, behind only Minnesota (80BB)…Randy Arozarena has drawn a walk in 10 of his last 12 games — his 12 walks in that span (since 5/11) pace the AL, trailing only STL Paul Goldscmidt (15BB) in all of MLB…overall, Arozarena’s 15 walks in May are tied for sixth most in the majors.

BAG BANDITS — The Rays lead the majors in stolen bases (28) and stolen base attempts (35) during the month of May…Wander Franco paces the club with eight steals this month, third most in MLB during May, followed by Josh Lowe, Luke Raley and Taylor Walls (4SB each)…the Rays have been successful on 14 of their last 16 stolen base attempts dating back to 5/14 at New York-AL.

The Rays have an MLB-best three players with 9+ steals (Wander Franco – 14SB, Josh Lowe – 9SB, Taylor Walls – 9SB).

GETTING DEFENSIVE — According to FanGraphs, the Rays 18 defensive runs saved are fourth most in the majors behind Toronto (33), Milwaukee (28) and Arizona (21)…Tampa Bay’s 16 errors are tied for second fewest in the majors while its .991 fielding percentage is second behind San Diego (.993).

Individually, Wander Franco’s six defensive runs saved are second among MLB shortstops behind CHC Dansby Swanson (7), while Taylor Walls’ five are tied for seventh among AL infielders.

GOING STREAKING — Yandy Díaz has a 19-game on-base streak since 4/27, slashing .354/.468/.677 (23-for-65) with 11 extra-base hits, 12 RBI, 12 walks and only 12 strikeouts in that stretch…it marks the second-longest streak of his career behind a 22-game run from 7/24-8/16, 2020…it is the third-longest active run in the AL behind MIN Byron Buxton (23G) and TEX Marcus Semien (21G).

Díaz has reached base safely in 29 of his last 30 games overall, going .352/.453/.620 (38-for-108) at the plate during that span…he leads all qualified major leaguers during that stretch (since 4/15) in batting average, OPS (1.073) and OBP while ranking second in SLG (.620).

THE BAY BOMBERS — The Rays have hit a major league-best 95 home runs, the fourth-most long balls through a club’s first 50 games in MLB history (since 1901), trailing only the 1999 Seattle Mariners (102HR), 2019 Minnesota Twins (101HR) and 2000 St. Louis Cardinals (98HR).

The Rays have an MLB-best 27 multi-HR games, ahead of New York-AL (25G); they are 22-5 in those contests…this includes 16 games with 3+ homers, most in the majors ahead of Los Angeles-NL (14G); they had 13 games with 3+ HR in 2022.

The Rays have an MLB-best 11 players with 5+ home runs this season, ahead of four teams tied at eight players (ATL, BAL, SF, LAD)…per Elias, Tampa Bay is the first team in MLB history to have 10+ players with 5+ HR before reaching the 50-game mark in a season; the Rays accomplished the feat in their 43rd contest (5/16 at NYM).

BATTER UP — Rays hitters lead the majors in OBP (.345), SLG (.500), OPS (.844), homers (95), extra-base hits (194), total bases (846) and at-bats per HR (17.82).

BLUE JAYS FLY SOUTH — Tampa Bay and Toronto continue a four-game series this evening with the sixth of 13 matchups between the two clubs this season…the Rays have fallen in five of their last seven games against the Blue Jays and are 6-5 against Toronto at home since the beginning of 2022.

Randy Arozarena has reached base safely in eight of his last nine games against Toronto, slashing .412/.462/.765 (14-for-34) with six doubles, 2 HR, 12 RBI and five multi-hit games in that span.

TONIGHT’S STARTER: LHP SHANE McCLANAHAN (7-0, 2.05)
SUGAR SHANE — The southpaw makes his 11th start tonight vs. Toronto, including his sixth at Tropicana Field…his 2.05 ERA is sixth-lowest through a pitcher’s first 10 starts of a season in club history…ranks among AL leaders in wins (1st, 7), ERA (2nd) and strikeouts (6th, 68)…is looking to become the third Rays pitcher to begin a season 8-0, including the first since Charlie Morton (8-0) in 2019.

LAST TIME OUT — McClanahan did not factor into the decision on 5/19 vs. Milwaukee…he worked a season-high 7.0 innings, allowing six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts…it marked the second start of his career in which he threw 7.0 scoreless innings (7.0IP, 3H, 1BB, 11SO) on 5/11/22 at LAA…it was his longest start since throwing 7.0 innings of two- run ball on 8/19/22 vs. Kansas City.

FREE BIRD — McClanahan will be making his second start vs. Toronto this season and the eighth of his career…he earned the win on 4/16 after throwing 6.0 innings of one-run ball, allowing four hits and two walks with six strikeouts…McClanahan is 3-2 with a 2.65 ERA (37.1IP, 11ER) in seven career starts opposite the Blue Jays.

In three starts against AL East opponents this season, McClanahan is 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA (21.0IP, 6ER) and 25 strikeouts against 14 walks while holding opponents to a .197 average (15-for-76).

MR. 400 — On 5/19 vs. Milwaukee, McClanahan’s fourth inning strikeout of Willy Adames marked the 400th of his career…he became the fastest pitcher in club history to reach 400 strikeouts by both games (63G) and innings pitched (343.1IP), per Elias…the previous record holders for each respective category were Scott Kazmir (68G) and Blake Snell (373.1IP).

HOME SWEET HOME — McClanahan ranks among AL leaders at home (min. 25.0IP) in several categories this year, including ERA (1st, 1.20) and strikeouts per 9.0 IP (2nd, 12.30)…in 36 career starts at Tropicana Field, McClanahan is 19-8 with a 2.79 ERA (200.0IP, 62ER) and 248 strikeouts against 57 walks…since making his Tropicana Field debut on 4/29/21 vs. Oakland, his 2.79 ERA at home is fourth-lowest in the majors (min. 200.0IP) behind MIA Sandy Alcantara (2.21), PHI Zack Wheeler (2.35) and SEA Luis Castillo (2.61).

COLLECTING W’S — The Rays won each of McClanahan’s first eight starts of the season…McClanahan’s personal seven-game winning streak since 3/30 is the longest of his career, ahead of a six-game streak from 5/5-6/9, 2022…marks the longest streak by a Rays starter since Tyler Glasnow (also 7G) from 8/25/20-4/17/21…with a win today, McClanahan will join Charlie Morton (8-0, 2019) in 2019 and Matt Moore (8-0, 2013) as the only pitchers to begin a season 8-0 in Rays history…no Tampa Bay hurler has started 9-0.

WE’VE GOT YOUR BACK — McClanahan’s 8.05 runs of support per 9.0 IP rank third in the majors behind TEX Martín Pérez (10.22) and ATL Charlie Morton (8.08)…last season, his 3.73 run support average ranked 20th among AL qualifiers.

A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY — McClanahan opened the season with eight straight starts of 5.0+ innings with two or fewer earned runs…it marked the longest such streak to open a season in Rays history, ahead of Tyler Glasnow’s seven-start run to open the 2019 campaign…from 10/1/22- 5/8/23, he strung together nine consecutive such starts, the third-longest streak in club history behind Blake Snell (10GS, 8/10-9/29, 2018) and McClanahan’s own 14-start run from 5/5-7/26, 2022.

His nine starts of 5.0+ IP with two or fewer ER this season are tied with NYY Gerrit Cole for the MLB lead.

CAN’T TOUCH THIS — McClanahan’s 35.1 pct. whiff rate ranks third in the majors behind ATL Spencer Strider (39.9%) and LAA Shohei Ohtani (35.4%)…opponents are swinging at 33.0 pct. of his pitches outside of the strike zone, the 12th-highest chase rate in baseball…McClanahan has also been effective on pitches inside the zone, recording the fourth-highest inzone whiff pct. in MLB (24.8%), trailing only Strider (30.9%), Ohtani (26.1%) and MIN Joe Ryan (25.0%).

Mikey Balhan Sports

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