After Ryan Borucki struggled in the first inning, Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker and manager John Gibbons gave him a simple instruction. Slow down.
Borucki loaded the bases and faced six batters on 31 pitches in the first, but allowed no runs in the inning before settling down for a six-inning quality start as Toronto fell to the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0 on Tuesday.
“I was rushing a little bit. Pete and Gibby both noticed it and told me to settle down a little bit,” said Borucki. “Took a couple of extra deep breaths when I was out there and my stuff really started to work a little bit.”
Borucki’s (3-4) quality start was wasted by the Blue Jays (62-75) lineup, which managed just three hits and stranded five runners, including three in scoring position. Borucki gave up two earned runs over six innings, striking out five on three hits.
“He just settled down. I thought he rushed a little bit in that first inning and just kind of took a little bit more time,” said Gibbons. “He was really really good. Had a bit of a better breaking ball today. Another great job by the kid. He just shows up and pitches.”
Jake Petricka pitched an inning, allowing two runs on three hits and striking out two. Thomas Pannone and Taylor Guerrieri each had a scoreless inning of relief.
Ryne Stanek started on back-to-back days for Tampa Bay (75-63), pitching in the first inning on Monday and again on Tuesday. He had a strikeout and allowed one hit on 10 pitches Tuesday. Stanek’s unusual starts are part of a pitching-by-committee approach Rays manager Kevin Cash has employed most of the season.
Hunter Wood (1-1), Jalen Beeks, Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo, Adam Kolarek and Sergio Romo also pitched in the seven-player shutout. Romo earned his 19th save of the season.
Tommy Pham had a triple as part of a three-run seventh inning, with Ji-Man Choi and Matt Duffy also driving in runs.
“They’ve got some good arms, guys have some good breaking balls,” said Gibbons. “They’re doing a heck of a job. They’re building that team down there pretty good. They’ve got some really good position players too, they’ve got a ton of speed. Everyone in that lineup can run.”
Mallex Smith opened the scoring for the Rays in the second inning, grounding out to first but giving Kevin Kiermaier enough time to run home from third.
Choi added to that lead in the seventh inning, doubling to centre field to drive in pinch hitter Brandon Lowe and give Tampa a 2-0 lead.
Three batters later, Pham had a base hit to left-centre field that Teoscar Hernandez bobbled, allowing the Rays designated hitter to reach third and cash in Choi.
Duffy followed that up with an RBI single that Pham easily scored on for the game’s final run.
Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales had back-to-back singles in the ninth inning to get a runner in scoring position, but pop flies by Randall Grichuk and Kevin Pillar ended the game.
Toronto made several personnel moves before the game. Right-handed reliever Joe Biagini was put on the 10-day disabled list with a left oblique strain retroactive to Saturday. Petricka has been recalled from triple-A Buffalo to replace him.
The Blue Jays also called up outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., infielder Richard Urena and first baseman Rowdy Tellez from Buffalo to join the expanded September roster. Outfielder Jonathan Davis was also selected to the active roster and right-handed pitcher Mike Hauschild was designated for assignment.
The 24-year-old Borucki, who was called up to the majors on July 26, is practically a veteran in the Blue Jays clubhouse after Toronto dealt veterans like Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ and Curtis Granderson ahead of the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline.
“Coming here in the beginning, it was cool to see all the veterans,” said Borucki. “But it’s also a very cool opportunity seeing guys I’ve played with in the minor leagues. Seeing Rowdy and (Davis), I’ve been playing with those guys since 2014.”