St. Petersburg – This game is not easy. You saw it when the Blue Jays struggled just to catch the ball and throw it on Friday night. You saw it when the Tampa Bay ball player blasted his fourth save in eight days. I kind of saw it when Mike Zunino missed two different tracks on his home ground by a handful of inches.
That’s what makes Manuel Margot’s May month something to watch.
He was the hottest in the major leagues during the first nine days of May – sat on the sidelines for three days with his hamstrings – and returned to deliver the RBI single in the eighth of a 5-2 win over Toronto on Friday.
It was his sixth game in the first season of the RBI, tied for the most in the major leagues, and it was his fifth green light in the eighth inning or thereafter.
“Timing is everything when you hit the ball, and I think most hitters would agree with that,” said manager Kevin Cash. “When you change the timing, or you miss a few hits or you miss some reps, that can have an impact. … It’s impressive that Mane sat three matches, or whatever he was, and he felt like he was involved in everything tonight.”
For the record, Margot scored .471 in May (16 vs 34) with three home runs and 14 RBI in 10 games. It entered the game topping the majors in average, slowdown and OPS for the month.
“You’re doing everything you can to stay in your routine,” Margot said via team interpreter Mane Navarro. “You know (injuries) will be part of the match, you may feel calm, but I’m happy the team is doing well.”
The Rays did a lot of things really well on Friday. Drew Rasmussen’s launcher wasn’t powerful but it kept the Blue Jays off-balance with a variety of sliders and cutters. Ryan Thompson and Andrew Kitridge got into two shady situations and made big gains.
He struggled offensively against Kevin Gusman – as a lot of teams have done in recent years – but was opportunistic when Toronto failed to make a few plays on the field.
The Rays had their first run on Brandon Lowe’s hat-trick – one of two he scored in the game – quarterback George Springer looked to have gotten it wrong. After a few innings, Gussmann’s throw error led to another run.
Meanwhile, the Rays were playing in excellent defense with left-back Randy Arrozarina and short-hit stealing Wander Franco, and Taylor Walls started two impressive doubles in third.
“You can’t give up things,” Zunino said. “It’s one of those things that we work hard on. Our players work very hard, and our players are very proud of what they do. We know that if we make teams win everything and don’t give up anything, we’ll have a good chance with our crew doing shows.”
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The ball faltered briefly in the eighth when Brooks Raleigh gave up three in a row to take a 2-1 lead, but Kittridge hit Bo Pechet and carried Vladimir Guerrero Jr. into a double play.
Zunino then drove the bottom of the stroke long into the right field that bounced off the top of the padding for a double. Just three rounds before, Zunino hit a linear shot that hit just below the yellow padding on the left court wall.
Walls followed with one song, then led Margot in running the green light with one stroke to the right to lead in Vidal Brogan’s pinch runner.
“He came to Claw,” Cash said. “Maybe he was the right man in the right place to come for us.”
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