Youth Served As Rays Beat Blue Jays

Jake Bauers hit his first MLB home run in Rays win

St. Petersburg and all lands adjacent, get used to these guys. Jake Bauers and Willy Adames are going to be part of your sports fanhoods for a long time. The Rays called Adames up and played the two in the lineup together for the same time in a 8-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

It was a night of firsts for the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the first game with both Willy Adames and Jake Bauers in the lineup, and Bauers hit his first home run as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 on Monday night behind a gutty performance out of Ryan Yarbrough.

“I knew I got it off the end a little bit, but I think I knew I got enough (of the ball). I don’t know, I want to say I blacked out a little bit just getting around the bases.” Even for someone as talented as Jake Bauers, someone who set expectations so high with his road to the big leagues, that first Major League home run was unlike anything else.

The man and his son who caught the home run ball met with the first baseman after the game, as is tradition. They gave him his home run ball in exchange for a fresh one with Bauers’ signature on it. When that was all they asked for, the young first baseman was surprised. Not one to leave it at that, Bauers also gave a bat to the fan.

“There’s no us without the fans,” said Bauers.

Yarbrough received a tough lesson in how to be a starting pitcher on Monday night. In the first inning, Yangervis Solarte hit a blooper down the left field line that turned into a double. He came around to score on a Kendrys Morales single. In the third, Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-run homer, and Kendrys Morales came around to score in the fourth after a leadoff double. Monday night, however, the bats bailed Yarbrough out.

In the first inning, down a run, the Rays got the score right back to even. Matt Duffy led off with a single, followed by a Jake Bauers double, and eventually a sacrifice fly by Joey Wendle. The Rays trailed three different times in the game, and they rallied back each of them. In the third, after the Hernandez homer to make it 3-1 Toronto, the Rays rallied for two runs on singles by Willy Adames and Mallex Smith.

The Blue Jays took their third lead of the night in the fourth inning, after Morales came around to score on his leadoff double. The Rays responded by taking their first lead, and it came on Jake Bauers’ first career home run. The shot was a long ball to right field that wound up in one of the exit tunnels, scoring Matt Duffy as well to put the Rays ahead 5-4.

Necessity may be the mother of invention for the Tampa Bay Rays. Injuries to Adeiny Hechavarria and Daniel Robertson opened up a hole in the middle infield for Willy Adames. Designating Brad Miller for assignment opened up a roster and lineup spot for Jake Bauers.

This is the blessing of having built a strong farm system through trading established big leaguers for prospects. With the team’s veterans leaving due to injuries, it gives room to young players to get playing time and chances to prove themselves.

“Youthful energy is fun to be around. Are they going to have a game like that every night? Probably not, but they play the game the right way. They’re capable of showing up in big spots, they showed that today. … You can’t deny the fact that these are exciting young players that we’ve heard so much about, and for them to come up here really quickly and impact us like that is fun to see.” Manager Kevin Cash is thinking with an eye on the future, but he’s also excited to watch these players develop while making their own impact on the ballclub.

This series with the Toronto Blue Jays marks the only three games in June that the Rays will play against a team below .500. It is a brutal month even by AL East standards. The Rays have already played two games against Washington and seven against Seattle this month. Ahead after this series: Two more games against the Nationals, six against the Yankees, and seven against the Houston Astros. This is what people mean when they say that the June schedule is stacked against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The rest of the series with the Blue Jays will be left to Bullpen Days. Expect to see Austin Pruitt come in with the task of getting somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 outs in one of those two games. Expect to see pitchers in the “opener” role once again. The experimentation continues with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2018.

Tuesday night, the opposing pitcher will be Jaime Garcia, one of two lefties the Rays are slated to face in this series. Garcia is 2-4 with a 5.57 ERA. The former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher has had a rough go of things since leaving St. Louis after the 2016 season. Garcia played on three different teams last year, having been traded from St. Louis to Atlanta before the season, from Atlanta to Minnesota, and then eventually to the Bronx to finish the season with the Yankees. It did not go well, and it has gone even worse in Toronto this year after signing as a free agent. He’ll be hoping to get back on track. Then again, that’s the Rays’ goal for this entire series.

Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.