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Blue Jays look to keep momentum going vs. Rays

Mar 28, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) and first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) celebrates after they beat the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Blue Jays have gotten off to a quick start when it comes to play in the American League East.

After clobbering the division rival Tampa Bay Rays 8-2 on Thursday on Opening Day behind three home runs, Toronto will get behind one of its top pitchers Friday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., in an attempt to open the season with two wins.

Last season, Toronto was 21-31 against the AL East, including a 6-7 mark against the Rays, but after seeing Yandy Diaz hit a leadoff homer in the home squad’s first at-bat, the Blue Jays slugged their way to a 6-1 lead.

With Tampa Bay ace Zach Eflin cruising through three perfect innings, George Springer hit a solo homer in the fourth, and Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. each hit solo shots in Toronto’s five-run sixth.

That was enough for Jose Berrios (1-0), who lasted just eight batters in his only other Opening Day start two seasons ago, but the right-hander was solid over six frames Thursday and yielded just two runs.

Guerrero’s mammoth 450-shot that flew above and beyond the batter’s eye in center was all the talk afterward.

“He is a special hitter who can hit the ball very far and very hard,” Springer said. “I know what’s in there and who he is as a player. I watch him work. … He’s going to hit a lot of balls like that.”

Rays skipper Kevin Cash sounded ready to get away from Opening Day.

“Good energy in the crowd and Yandy got it going really well,” Cash said. “You go on and get ready for Game 2. It probably gets a little more normal going forward.”

Toronto tabbed Chris Bassitt for the second matchup of the four-game series. He went 16-8 with a 3.60 ERA over 33 starts in 2023, his first season with the Blue Jays.

Against the Rays, the righty is 1-2 and 2.51 in five games (four starts).

In his club’s second game, Aaron Civale will take the mound as he starts his second season for Tampa Bay.

With injuries decimating their rotation and starters Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen lost for the season, the Rays reached out to the Cleveland Guardians and acquired the right-hander on July 31 at the trade deadline for highly touted minor-league first baseman Kyle Manzardo.

Civale ate some innings, though not as many as expected, but he lacked the success in the division that he produced for the Guardians in the Central.

After going 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts and with hitters batting .207 while with Cleveland, the 28-year-old posted his worst ERA — 5.36 — in 10 starts and the opposition batted .279 in 45 1/3 innings.

Against the Blue Jays across three starts, the former Northeastern University hurler is 1-2 with a 6.08 ERA, with Toronto having batted .327 with four homers in 13 1/3 frames.

In a three-way deal with the New York Yankees and Miami Marlins on Wednesday, the Rays acquired catcher Ben Rortvedt.

The lefty-hitting Rortvedt, 26, played in 32 games last season for the Yankees, hitting just .118 (8-for-68) with two homers and four RBIs.

–Field Level Media

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