Blake Snell Dominates as Rays Beat Blue Jays 3-1 in Game 1 of Wild Card Series

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2020

Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell delivers a pitch during the second inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

The good news for the Toronto Blue Jays is that they won't have to face Blake Snell again this season. The bad news is that they are one loss away from elimination largely because of him. 

The Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher was brilliant in his 5.2 innings on Tuesday in Game 1 of their Wild Card Series, confounding Toronto's batters en route to a 3-1 win. 

Randy Arozarena got the Rays on the board in the bottom of the fourth after hitting a triple and scampering home on a wild pitch by Robbie Ray. 

Manuel Margot's two-run dinger in the seventh gave Tampa the insurance it would need. 

Toronto got the game-tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth, but Peter Fairbanks closed the door, earning the save.

The Rays, who won the season series between the teams 6-4 and posted an impressive 20-9 record at home, will now have two cracks to win another game and advance to the ALDS. 

                  

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Key Stats

Blake Snell, TB: 5.2 innings, one hit, two walks, nine strikeouts, zero runs allowed, 82 pitches. 

Rays bullpen: 3.1 innings, four hits, one strikeout, one run allowed

Randy Arozarena, TB: 1-for-4, one run

Manuel Margot, TB: 2-for-3, two-run homer

Matt Shoemaker, TOR: 3.0 innings, two hits, two strikeouts, no runs allowed

Robbie Ray, TOR: 3.0 innings, one hit, one walk, five strikeouts, one walk allowed

A.J. Cole, TOR: 0.1 innings, one hit, one walk, one strikeout, two runs allowed

Bo Bichette, TOR: 0-for-3, one RBI

               

Snell Was En Fuego and the Bullpen Finished His Masterpiece

When you strike out nine batters in 5.2 innings, you are dealing. When you carry a no-hitter through five innings and only allow three baserunners total, you are really dealing. 

Here's what made Snell's fantastic performance so important: The Rays bullpen is so good that the team is 29-1 when leading after six innings, per the TBS broadcast. If you don't generate offense early in a game against this team, the Rays become borderline impossible to beat. 

The Rays followed their blueprint to success perfectly on Tuesday night thanks to Snell's fantastic performance. Toronto needs to jump on Tyler Glasnow early in Wednesday's Game 2 to have a shot. 

                     

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Toronto's Offense Better Wake Up Fast

When your top six hitters—for Toronto, that's Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Randal Grichuk, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez—combine to go just 3-for-19 with two walks and Bichette's eighth-inning sacrifice fly, well, it isn't much of a recipe for success. 

Obviously Tampa Bay is a fantastic team with a brilliant pitching staff, particularly in the bullpen. A great pitching performance will always foil a dangerous lineup. But Toronto is going to have to adjust something in their approach on Wednesday. If their top five hitters barely muster any offense again, this best-of-five series will be over. 

               

What's Next? 

The teams will meet again Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET on TBS, with Glasnow expected to face Toronto's Hyun-Jin Ryu.