Blue Jays pitcher Matt Shoemaker appears to disagree with the decision to take him out after just 3 innings on Tuesday.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Matt Shoemaker was rolling along, holding the Tampa Bay Rays off the scoreboard for three innings in Game 1 of their best-of-three Wild Card series on Tuesday. But then he was pulled from the game, and the exact reason why appears to be a source of contention in the Blue Jays clubhouse.
Manager Charlie Montoyo developed a plan before the game: Shoemaker, who had only pitched one game since Aug. 21, would only pitch a few innings against the Rays. Shoemaker, though, believed he could’ve gone even further and was surprised when Montoyo told him he was done for the night, according to the Toronto Star’s Gregor Chisholm.
“This is postseason baseball. It’s playoff baseball. Physically, I felt great,” Shoemaker said following the game. “I wanted to go seven, eight, nine innings. That’s just how we internally compete. Of course I wanted to keep going, but I had an idea of the plan, somewhat, going into it.”
After Shoemaker pitched three scoreless innings, limiting the Rays to just two hits and at 35 pitches for the game, he was lifted for left-hander Robbie Ray to begin the fourth. The decision did not pay off. The first batter Ray faced, Randy Arozarena, laced a line drive into the gap in right-center field. By the time the Blue Jays got the ball back into the infield, Arozarena was on third base and would come in to score with the game’s opening run.
Ray pitched solidly, the triple by Arozarena the only hit he gave up in three innings of work. The Blue Jays’ real problem, though, proved to be hitting Rays pitching.
Blake Snell, the former Cy Young Award winner handed the ball by Tampa Bay for Game 1, didn’t give up a hit until the sixth while striking out nine in 5.2 innings. Rays pitchers limited the Blue Jays to just five hits and struck out 12. Pete Fairbanks, who didn’t record a save during the regular season, came in to pitch the ninth with the Rays nursing a 3-1 lead and offered a steady dose of upper-90s fastballs to close out the game. Toronto’s top four hitters went a combined 1-13.
The Blue Jays are now in a must-win situation. Fortunately, there won’t be a debate about their starting pitcher in Game 2. Hyun Jin Ryu, who led the club with a 2.69 ERA this season, will start with Toronto’s season on the line. Ryu is the only Blue Jays starter to pitch as deep as the seventh inning in a game this season.
The Blue Jays are counting on him to do it again. Hitting Tyler Glasnow and the Rays deep roster of hard-throwing relievers, though, is another issue.