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Pannone makes big statement, holds off Rays

Tellez goes 3-for-4 with HR and three RBIs in big day at the plate
September 22, 2018

TORONTO -- Ryan Borucki and Sean Reid-Foley might be receiving more attention, but Thomas Pannone is doing his best to remain part of the conversation, and along the way the Blue Jays' prospect is making a case that he should be considered a part of the future.Pannone tossed his third

TORONTO -- Ryan Borucki and Sean Reid-Foley might be receiving more attention, but Thomas Pannone is doing his best to remain part of the conversation, and along the way the Blue Jays' prospect is making a case that he should be considered a part of the future.
Pannone tossed his third consecutive quality start on Saturday afternoon with 6 2/3 strong innings in a 5-2 victory over the Rays. Toronto's No. 26 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, has been one the biggest surprises during the final month of the season and he's making a statement that a spot in next year's rotation should not be ruled out.
The 24-year-old might not possess overpowering stuff as his fastball typically sits around 88 mph, but so far he has made the most of a three-pitch mix, which also includes a curveball and changeup, to keep opposing hitters off balance. In five starts this season, Pannone has posted a 3.86 ERA and all but one of the outings have been quality starts.
"I'm thrilled with how they've gone," Pannone said in reference to his last three outings. "I've done some good things in them and just had good pace in all of them. They've all been similar outings to me. The way I felt, the way I executed my pitches and actually the result, they're all pretty similar. I'm feeling pretty good about it."
The old cliche in baseball is that strong performances in September often have to be taken with a grain of salt and a lot of times turn out to be fool's gold. The thinking is that with expanded rosters and a lot of teams out of contention, the competition can at times be more comparable to what players might find in Triple-A. That might be the case here as well, but it's also worth noting that each of Pannone's last three starts has come against teams either going to the postseason or at least still in the mix.

Pannone's first start this month came against the American League Central champion Indians and he limited that potent offense to two runs over 6 1/3 innings. His next start came against division rival -- and AL Wild Card leading -- Yankees with two earned runs over seven. On Saturday it was another two-run performance, this time against a team that -- barring something totally unexpected -- won't make the postseason but has also yet to be eliminated.
It's one thing to do well against the Orioles -- and Pannone did that too by carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a start on Aug. 22 -- but it's another thing entirely to succeed against teams that still have a lot riding on this season. Pannone doesn't have any guarantees beyond this year, and he'll likely have to compete for a job next spring, but starts like the one he had Saturday by scattering six hits over 6 2/3 innings while striking out five will go a long way in making sure the rookie from Rhode Island remains under consideration.
"I'm trying to come out every time and give the team a chance to win," Pannone said. "If it can put me in a good spot for next year, then great. But all in all I'm just trying to go out there with these guys and put on the best performance I possibly can and give this team a chance to win."

Fellow rookie Rowdy Tellez once again played a pivotal role in Toronto's victory after he slugged home run No. 3 on the season with a two-run shot off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow in the bottom of the fourth. Tellez also doubled to finish 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Catcher Reese McGuire chipped in with an RBI double to give the Blue Jays their sixth victory over the last eight games. Glasnow took the loss after he was charged with all three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out six.
"Just getting pitches out over the plate and something I can handle and put a good swing on," Tellez said. "Staying with my approach. Staying in the situation and just trying to be the best hitter I can be right now and doing everything I can to help the team."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Taking advantage: Blue Jays third-base coach Luis Rivera and outfielder Kevin Pillar caught the Rays napping in the bottom of the fourth inning. Pillar was on first base when McGuire hit a double to the corner in right field. It appeared as though Rivera was going to stop Pillar at third base, but Rays right fielder Austin Meadows made the curious decision to make a casual toss to the cutoff man at second instead of making a strong throw in the direction of home plate. As soon as Meadows released the ball, Rivera waved home Pillar, who rounded third and easily scored Toronto's third run of the game.
"There should have been a play there," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I'm not sure where Joey or CJ were positioned, but you want that to come directly to home or the cutoff man."

Remaining perfect: Toronto closer Ken Giles is now a perfect 24-for-24 in save opportunities this season after he tossed a scoreless ninth inning. Giles retired three of the four batters he faced to close the door on the Blue Jays' second victory of the series. The 28-year-old has allowed just one earned run in 23 2/3 innings of save opportunities this season. In non-save situations, Giles has allowed 25 earned runs in 24 2/3 innings. Giles has picked up 12 of those saves since joining the Blue Jays prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline as part of the package for Roberto Osuna.
"He has been perfect since he got here, and he has saved a lot of games in baseball," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I think it's a new look for him. A new team to be with. [Houston] is in the past and he is thriving."

HE SAID IT
"It definitely gives me the confidence that I know my stuff can play here. Facing good lineups, good hitters and I'm turning them over pretty well. Just want to continue doing that." -- Pannone, on facing the Indians, Yankees and Rays in his last three starts
SOUND SMART
Tellez's 12 extra-base hits are tied for the fourth most through a player's first 16 career games since 1913. He trails only Trevor Story (2016), Chris Dickerson (2008) and Joe DiMaggio (1936), who each had 13. Tellez also joins Jeff Francoeur (12 in 2005) as the only players with at least 12 extra-base hits in their first 48 plate appearances.

UP NEXT
The Blue Jays will close out their four-game series against the Rays when rookie left-hander Borucki (4-4, 3.86 ERA) takes the mound on Sunday at Rogers Centre with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. Borucki is coming off his best start of the season, as he tossed eight scoreless innings vs. the Orioles on Monday. Tampa Bay is set to counter with No. 1 starter and American League Cy Young Award contender Blake Snell (20-5, 1.97).

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.