ST. PETERSBURG — It was an afternoon of pitching debuts for the Rays on Sunday against Toronto.
Twenty-one-year-old Luis Patino made his Tampa Bay debut and 31-year-old Louis Head made his major league debut.
They combined for three and two-thirds hitless innings. Unfortunately for the Rays, their efforts could not prevent a 1-0 defeat and a series loss to their (temporary) Pinellas County neighbors.
The Blue Jays scored the game’s only run in the third inning off Josh Fleming. Santiago Espinal’s single scored Marcus Semien, who led off the inning with a single. Toronto threatened to tack on at least a couple of more runs that inning when they loaded the bases, but Fleming struck out Bo Bichette to escape further damage.
Patino’s debut in a Rays uniform did not get off to a great start. He battled Cavan Biggio for nine pitches before walking the Blue Jays’ leadoff batter. The base on balls, however, would be all the Jays mustered against the righthander.
Patino, who appeared in 11 games (one start) with the Padres last season, retired the next eight batters and left to an ovation when he was relieved by Fleming with two outs in the third.
“I felt good and I was very happy with how I performed,” said Patino, through interpreter Manny Navarro. “I tried to attack the zone the best that I could and taking it one pitch at a time allowed me to have that success.”
Patino, pitching in front of his parents, who arrived from Columbia on Saturday night, threw 42 pitches with 30 of them for strikes. After walking Biggio, he struck out Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. swinging and got Randal Grichuk looking at strike three. He struck out four in his two and two-third innings of work.
“It feels really good knowing they were there supporting me,” said Patino, who came to the Rays from San Diego as part of the Blake Snell deal, of his parents. “They made a lot of sacrifices so I could live my dream.”
Head, with his wife looking on, came on in the eighth and retired the Jays in order on 10 pitches.
“It was a rush and a lot of fun,” he said of his emotions. “What was going through my head was making solid pitches and executing. I was trying to focus on the game and pitch to pitch instead of everything else.”
His effort was needed in a one-run game.
“It meant a lot to be in a close ball game,” he said.
The Rays, who had scored at least one run in 69 straight games since there were blanked last August 5 against Boston, continue their 10-game homestand — and stretch of playing 17 straight days and 30 of 31 — Monday evening (7:10) with the first of four games against Oakland.
Toronto starter Hyun Jin Ryu left after three and two-thirds innings due to what was announced as a minor right glute strain.
Following a day off Monday, the Blue Jays open a five-game homestand in Dunedin starting Tuesday night when they play the first of two against the Nationals. A day off Thursday will be followed by a three-game weekend series against the Braves.
Recordings of “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” performed by Bally Sports Sun Rays reporter Tricia Whitaker were played before the game. A recording of Whitaker singing “God Bless America” was played during the seventh-inning stretch.