Jays vs. Rays G1 lineups, FAQ (TBS, 5 ET)

September 29th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays and Blue Jays will meet in the postseason for the first time during the Wild Card Series. That’s fitting considering this playoff format will be unlike anything we’ve seen in the history of the sport.

Though the franchises haven’t met in the postseason, they’re very familiar with each other, both on and off the field. On the field, the Rays won six of the 10 matchups this season, but the Blue Jays outscored Tampa Bay, 48-44.

The Rays have their starting rotation mapped out, going with in Game 1, in Game 2 and in Game 3. The Blue Jays, however, are still thinking through their options.

Off the field, managers Charlie Montoyo and Kevin Cash have a history going back years. Montoyo was the manager of the Rays’ Triple-A team for eight seasons and joined Cash’s Rays coaching staff from 2015-18. The two spent a lot of time together during Spring Training, particularly when Montoyo became the Rays’ bench coach in ‘17.

“I’ve seen him play the bongos plenty of times,” Cash joked. “He gets those things out, we’re trying to watch college basketball and we can’t, because he’s playing those stupid bongos.”

There will be no secrets -- or bongos -- in the Wild Card Series. It’ll all come down to who plays the best over three games.

Starting lineups
Blue Jays:
Toronto loaded up on right-handed bats against Snell, while , who bats left-handed, will bat first after establishing himself as an effective leadoff man regardless of who’s on the mound. and are typically thought of as the mashers in the lineup, but there’s power to be found at nearly every spot in the order.

  1. Cavan Biggio, 3B (L)
  2. Bo Bichette, SS
  3. Randal Grichuk, CF
  4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
  5. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF
  6. Teoscar Hernández, RF
  7. Jonathan Villar, 2B (S)
  8. Alejandro Kirk, DH
  9. Danny Jansen, C

Rays: Cash went heavy on lefties against right-hander Matt Shoemaker, using DH Yoshi Tsutsugo to lead off and opting to keep , who hasn’t played in a month due to a right hamstring strain, on the bench as a pinch-hitting option. Left-handed hitter Nate Lowe got the start at first base over Mike Brosseau and Ji-Man Choi.

  1. Yoshi Tsutsugo, DH (L)
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B (L)
  3. Randy Arozarena, LF
  4. Nate Lowe, 1B (L)
  5. Willy Adames, SS
  6. Joey Wendle, 3B (L)
  7. Manuel Margot, RF
  8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF (L)
  9. Mike Zunino, C

Who are the starting pitchers?
Blue Jays:
Shoemaker (0-1, 4.71 ERA) was named the surprise Game 1 starter by manager Charlie Montoyo on Monday, which is part of a larger strategy by the club. Montoyo isn’t worried about the order in which the Blue Jays win their two games, so he’s setting up ace Hyun Jin Ryu with an extra day’s rest for Game 2 and leading off with the veteran right-hander in Shoemaker. After returning from a month on the IL with right shoulder inflammation, Shoemaker threw three innings against the Yankees on Sept. 21 in his final outing of the season. He’s stayed sharp since then by facing live hitters, but don’t expect Shoemaker to be asked to carry six or seven innings. The Blue Jays will have a full bullpen plan in place, and it’s possible they only ask Shoemaker to get through three.

Rays: Snell (4-2, 3.24 ERA) will get the start in Game 1 for the Rays. The former Cy Young Award winner had an injury-plagued season in 2019, but he has returned to form in ’20. Snell has had a lot of success against the Blue Jays throughout his career. In two starts against Toronto this season, he was still building up his innings, allowing two runs over 7 2/3 frames. In his career, Snell has a 2.81 ERA in 13 starts against Toronto.

How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Blue Jays:
Toronto’s bullpen is unique in that it leaned heavily on multi-inning arms in 2020. That doesn’t mean the traditional long reliever, though, because it certainly wasn’t mop-up work. Right-hander and No. 1 prospect offer the Blue Jays significant upside in the middle innings and could come in as part of a planned piggyback at some point, while starters , , and even could be used aggressively. will be the club’s go-to lefty, while , and will handle the back end. Dolis is the likeliest arm to get save situations, but Montoyo will be very flexible with that group and won’t hesitate to drop one of those arms into the fifth or sixth inning if he sees a high-leverage situation.

Rays: Tampa Bay needed just 60 games to tie a Major League record by having 12 pitchers record a save in 2020, and you can expect more of the same in the postseason. will get the high-leverage situations, regardless of the inning. and will also be relied upon heavily in key situations, while , and will get a lot of the responsibilities against left-handed hitters.

Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Blue Jays:

Rays: “The Stable” will be at full strength heading into Game 1.

Any injuries of note?
Blue Jays: Right-handers and are on the IL, and both would be major additions if they’re able to return in time to make an impact in the Wild Card Series. Romano is the closest as he works back from a pulley strain in his right middle finger, as he threw a live bullpen session on Sunday at maximum effort. It’s possible he’s a last-minute call based on how he bounces back from that. Romano was one of the club’s breakout stars earlier this season, posting a 1.23 ERA with 21 strikeouts over 14 2/3 innings. If he’s able to return with the same velocity and devastating slider, Romano could be the X-factor of this entire group. First baseman also has been working his way back from a right knee strain, but his return is unlikely this early in the postseason.

Rays: Díaz and are recovering from hamstring strains, but both have made progress and could be options for the Rays in the Wild Card Series. They would be huge additions to a Rays lineup that has missed their absence. Before the injury, Díaz led the Rays with a .428 on-base percentage and was consistently hitting in the top third of the lineup against both lefties and righties. is out with a left oblique injury, but the outfielder won’t be ready to return until the World Series, at the earliest.

On the mound, (lat/shoulder) has been on the injured list since Aug. 15, but the left-hander has thrown a handful of live batting practice sessions over the last two weeks and could be an option in the bullpen. Alvarado has struggled with command over the last two seasons, but there’s always room for a lefty that throws 97 mph with movement.

Who is hot and who is not?
Blue Jays: Guerrero started to heat up in the Blue Jays’ final set against the Yankees, cranking out nine hits in the four-game series. He also homered in the regular-season finale on Sunday against the Orioles. Guerrero has shown signs of life a few different times this season, but he has never truly gone on the type of run he’s capable of. Other hitters have, as the Blue Jays’ “next man up” mentality has seen different players carry the lineup for a week at a time, so it might just be Guerrero’s turn. His swing has looked much more natural, engaging his legs more after he looked off balance earlier in the season.

It’s unfair to call Hernández “cold” given that he missed nearly two weeks with an oblique injury in September, but he has hit .227 with a .663 OPS in the 11 games since his return. Hernández’s power has been a spectacle this season, and he shouldn’t be far from rediscovering his groove. But the Blue Jays will need that to happen quickly.

Rays: No Rays hitter is hotter than heading into the postseason. Wendle enters on an eight-game hitting streak, batting .464 (13-for-28) with seven RBIs during that stretch. Wendle has recorded a hit in 12 of his last 13 games. Expect to see Wendle in the lineup, even against left-handed pitching.

Renfroe and are two hitters the Rays would like to get going in the postseason. Renfroe snapped an 0-for-15 skid with two hits on Sunday, his first multi-hit game since Aug. 13. Lowe, who has played a big role in Choi’s absence, also snapped an 0-for-15 skid with a pair of hits in Sunday’s 5-0 win over the Phillies.