Tyler Glasnow’s start Friday night began with an inning unlike any we’ve seen in the Majors in 119 years. After that, Glasnow pitched a lot more like the ace the Rays saw during his first four starts.
In a 37-pitch first inning, Glasnow allowed four runs on four hits and a walk while striking out four. Then he gave up just one run on one hit and a walk, struck out six and threw 57 pitches over his final five innings.
But the damage done early did in Glasnow, and the Blue Jays rode their four-run first inning to deal the Rays a 5-3 defeat in the series opener at Tropicana Field.
“I was just pissed off the whole time, but I know I had to go out and keep my pitch count down,” Glasnow said. “I wanted to go and get six innings, for sure. That was pretty much the only thing on my mind, so I tried to be as efficient as I could. I just ended up feeling a little better as it went on.”
The night began in encouraging fashion for Glasnow, who struck out Cavan Biggio on three pitches and Bo Bichette on eight. Then the inning got away from him. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reached on a two-out single, and Rowdy Tellez ripped an RBI double off the wall in right-center field. Glasnow walked Randal Grichuk on four pitches, then Marcus Semien ripped a 97.7-mph fastball out to left-center.
“Just couldn't execute. I got two outs then just wasn't really landing pitches, falling behind, then got tagged for that three-run homer,” Glasnow said. “Just the rhythm was all wrong. It just didn't feel right.”
Semien’s three-run homer was the first allowed by Glasnow all season. He’d allowed just two runs in 24 2/3 innings over his first four outings, only to allow four runs just seven batters into his fifth start.
"We hit the right pitches because he's human, so he's going to make a couple of mistakes. I wouldn't even call them mistakes; I think we just put good at-bats together,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “Of course, then he settled down and went into the sixth inning, and he had close to 50 pitches in three innings. He's a good pitcher, man. For us to score four, I'm really proud of my team, because he's got good stuff."
The inning still wasn’t over, however, not even after Glasnow recorded his third strikeout two batters later. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. swung and missed on a curveball, but the pitch bounced away from catcher Francisco Mejía, giving Gurriel plenty of time to reach safely. Glasnow responded by striking out Danny Jansen, completing the third four-strikeout inning in Rays history.
Just how rare was his four-run, four-strikeout frame? According to STATS, Glasnow became just the second pitcher in Major League history to have at least four strikeouts while allowing at least four runs in the same inning. The other: the Phillies’ Doc White, who turned in a similar fifth inning against the Brooklyn Superbas on July 21, 1902.
The Jays made Glasnow throw 26 pitches with two outs and 37 pitches overall in the first inning, running his pitch count so high that Chris Mazza started warming up. But Glasnow ensured that Mazza wouldn’t need to pitch until the seventh. Pitching coach Kyle Snyder identified a disconnect in Glasnow’s delivery after the second inning, and it was mostly smooth sailing from then on.
The right-hander wound up working six innings, allowing only a second-inning walk and a sixth-inning homer by Grichuk while averaging 11.4 pitches per inning the rest of the way. Glasnow struck out 10 on the night. While he was saddled with a loss, the fact that he kept the Rays from burning through their bullpen at the outset of a 17-game stretch with no days off did not go unappreciated.
“That's pretty remarkable. He just turned it on,” manager Kevin Cash said. “What he did was huge. What [Mazza] did to cover those last three innings was big for us. We just came up short tonight.”
Coming off an excellent road trip at the plate, the Rays struggled to get anything going early on against Toronto lefty Steven Matz. The first two times through the order, Matz held Tampa Bay scoreless while allowing only four hits and a walk. Randy Arozarena provided a jolt in the field and at the plate, ending the top of the fifth with an out-of-nowhere catch in center then crushing a three-run homer off Matz in the bottom of the inning.
“I felt like there were a couple innings that, whether we got ourselves on base or they put us on with errors or misplays, we weren't able to come up with that big hit to get us back in the ballgame until Randy's did,” Cash said. “Matz, he was pretty good. He was really good. Fastball-changeup was working really well, dropped in breaking balls here and there, so he kept us off-balance, did a nice job.”