April 21st, 2024

Jays play long ball to open season with 8-2 win over Rays

By Fred Goodall, The Associated Press on March 28, 2024.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – George Springer, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homered Thursday to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to a season-opening 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Alejandro Kirk and Bo Bichette drove in two runs apiece for the Blue Jays, who scored five times in the sixth inning after being limited to one hit – Springer’s solo homer in the fourth – off Rays’ starter Zach Eflin (0-1) through five innings.

José Berríos (1-0), making his second opening-day start for the Blue Jays and fourth overall, gave up a leadoff homer to Yandy Díaz on his fifth pitch of the day and also yielded an RBI double to the defending AL batting champion in the sixth.

The Toronto right-hander allowed two runs and six hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out six in the matchup of American East rivals who both made the playoffs last season.

Eflin, who won 16 games in 2023 after signing a $40 million, three-year contract in free agency, allowed six runs and six hits over 5 2/3 innings in his first career opening-day start. The first three hits off him were homers, including Guerrero’s 450-foot shot to centre that gave Toronto a 3-1 lead in the sixth.

Biggio also homered in the sixth, and the Blue Jays broke it open later that inning after Eflin yielded an infield single to Bichette, hit Justin Turner with a pitch and walked Daulton Varsho to load the bases. Kirk followed with a two-run single before Kevin Kiermaier added an RBI single to make it 6-1.

The opener before a sellout crowd of 25,025 at Tropicana Field was the start of a three-city road trip for the Blue Jays, who are playing their first 10 games on the road while renovations are completed at Rogers Centre.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: Manager John Schneider said ace Kevin Gausman (shoulder fatigue) could make his season debut Sunday or Monday. The right-hander went 12-9 with a 3.16 ERA in 31 starts last season.

Rays: Opened the season with nine players on the injured list, including starting RHPs Taj Bradley (right pectoral strain) and Shane Baz (left oblique strain), who are on the 15-day list. Three other starters – lefty Shane McClanahan (Tommy John), right-hander Drew Rasmussen (right elbow) and lefty Jeffrey Springs (Tommy John) are on the 60-day list and expected to miss either all or a significant portion of the season.

UP NEXT

Friday is the second day of a four-game series between the AL East rivals, with right-hander Aaron Civale (7-5, 3.46 last season) starting for Tampa Bay and Toronto countering with right-hander Chris Bassitt (16-8, 3.60).

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb

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