Justin Turner Homers, Drives In Four As Blue Jays Defeat Rays 9-2

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Toronto Blue Jays' Justin Turner, right, celebrates with third base coach Carlos Febles after a solo home run off Tampa Bay Rays' Tyler Alexander during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, March 31, 2024, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

St. Petersburg, Fla – Justin Turner homered and drove in four runs as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 9-2 at Tropicana Field on Sunday afternoon. Turner finished the game 3-for-4 with a walk and just a triple shy of the cycle.

Shawn Armstrong (0-1, 11.57 ERA) takes the loss for the Rays who fall to 2-2 on the season. Armstrong allowed a pair of runs, one earned, in his inning of work. He struck out one and walked one.

Mitch White (1-0, 0.00 ERA) picks up the win for the Blue Jays who improve to 2-2 on the season. Nate Pearson took over in the fifth inning for starter Kevin Gausman who was working on a pitch count. Gausman’s buildup to the season was delayed by arm soreness in the spring. He was effective in his 4.1-innings of work holding the Rays to one earned run on a pair of hits while striking out six, walking none, and hitting a batter. Gausman made 69 pitches with 48 for strikes. The official scorer credited Mitch White was credited with the win as he worked 3.0 scoreless frames.

Opener Armstrong Allows A Pair Of Runs:

The Rays use of the opener failed to neutralize the Blue Jays potent top of the lineup, even without shortstop Bo Bichette who was scratched with a sore neck. George Springer led off with a single, Vlad Guerrero walked, and Justin Turner drove Springer home with the games first run. A passed ball allowed both Guerrero and Turner to move into scoring position. Daulton Varsho struck out for the first out of the inning but Alejandro Kirk delivered a RBI single that Brandon Lowe was able to field with a dive to keep Turner at 3rd. Armstrong was able to limit the damage to just the two runs by inducing a double play ball off the bat of Ernie Clement.

Arozarena Delivers Opposite Field Homer:

Randy Arozarena has been tinkering with his swing in batting practice. More specifically, he’s been working on driving the ball to right field. The work paid dividends on Saturday afternoon as he hit his first opposite field homer since June 7, 2023 (walk-off versus Twins). He repeated the feat in the top of the first inning to cut the Jays lead to 2-1 homering to right field off Kevin Gausman.

Later, Arozarena showed his defensive skills taking extra-bases away from Ernie Clement:

Alexander Makes Rays Debut:

Tyler Alexander took over for Shawn Armstrong in the top of the second with the Rays trailing 2-1. It marks Alexander’s season and Rays debut. It also is the first since suffering a season ending lat strain in his start against the Colorado Rockies on July 2nd while he was a member of the Detroit Tigers.

Toronto’s 2-out Rally Extends Lead:

Tyler Alexander retired the first two Toronto hitters he faced but the number nine hitter Isiah Kiner-Falefa singled. George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero each drew walks to load the bases. Justin Turner just missed a grand slam with a line drive off the top of the wall in left scoring a pair to extend Toronto’s lead to 4-1. Alexander was able to avoid further damage by retiring Daulton Varsho to end the inning.

Turner’s Big Day Continues in Fifth:

Justin Turner continued his assault on Rays’ pitchers by lining a solo homer to extend Toronto’s lead to 5-1 in the top of the fifth. The HR was Turner’s first of the season and his third hit of the day, leaving him just a triple shy of the cycle.

Schneider Homer In Fifth Breaks It Open:

Davis Schneider broke the game open in the fifth inning delivering his first homer of the season, a 2-run shot, to extend the Blue Jays lead to 7-1.

Waguespack Makes Rays Debut:

Jacob Waguespack took over for Tyler Alexander to open the seventh inning making his season and Rays debut. Waguespack appeared in the major leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2020-2021. He spent the 2022-2023 seasons pitching overseas in Japan. It was an ugly debut as Waguespack couldn’t find the strike zone walking four batters and allowing a pair of runs while throwing 40 pitches.

Shenton Makes Big League Debut:

Austin Shenton entered the game in the top of the eighth playing first base in his major league debut. He had his first plate appearance in the bottom of the eighth and flew out to left. Shenton along with JT Chargois was acquired by the Rays for reliever Diego Castillo at the trade deadline in 2021. He is rated #8 on the MLB Pipeline Rays Top-30 prospect list.

Paredes Hits First Homer:

Isaac Paredes homered off Chad Green in the bottom of the ninth to shave the Jays’ lead to 9-2. It was his first homer of the season, and of course, it was pulled.

Up Next For Rays:

The Tampa Bay Rays remain at home and welcome in the Texas Rangers for a three game series beginning Monday at 6:50 p.m.. Ryan Pepiot will make his season and Rays debut. The Texas Rangers will send Dane Dunning to the mound.