Exciting New Rivalry Will Intensify When Rays Move To Montreal
Cavan Biggio Got Plunked Twice In One Game Of A Developing Rivalry
A new rivalry is blooming and, if Major League Baseball officials take action, it will amp up interest even beyond the United States. The two clubs are a thousand miles apart right now, but they still compete in the same division.
That geographical distance could be cut to just 300 miles, or should I say 500 kilometers, since both would be stationed in Canada. One half of the rivalry is of course the Blue Jays, who currently exist as that country's only Major League club.
Such a distinction should change as early as next season, since the ground work has already been laid. Before the pandemic altered massive changes to the 2020 season, baseball had discussed allowing the Tampa Rays to play a couple of series in Montreal.
Perhaps it is the anticipation of that idea that has accounted for the intense battles between the Rays and the Jays so far during the first month, games that in nearly every case have ended with one run differences. In the very opening series fans saw the Rays score 14 runs and the Jays 12, as Tampa took the ten innings to eke out the deciding game on July 26.
No rivalry could exist without some extracurricular activities, so this one got more heated in the opener of the next series. Tampa might have taken exception with the way Cavan Biggio handled a third inning home run, for he got plunked during his next at bat.
While that incident failed to cause much of stir, the next plate appearance raised much ire when once again Biggio got hit by a pitch. Houston fans might have begun to worry that if every Jays game were against the Rays, Biggio would very quickly break his father Craig's record of being hit by pitches.
After the Toronto victory evened the season series, the clubs were again deadlocked after regulation of game five. Tampa infielder Brandon Lowe broke the tie in the second extra frame with a home run, thereby giving the Rays the win.
The second game of the twin bill also required extra innings, and it, too, ended with a Tampa home run, this time a two run shot by first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo to give the Rays a 7-5 win. It also put Tampa two games up in the young rivalry, a cushion which would be cut in half when the two teams met a few weeks later.
Like most of the contests between Toronto and Tampa, the next three games would all be decided by just one run. The first in true rivalry fashion required extra innings, only this time the Jays prevailed 6-5.
A fourth straight extra inning game followed, further intensifying what was becoming the 2020 version of the legendary Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Tampa outfielder Kevin Kiermaier dealt the decisive blow in this one, a tenth inning walk-off single that scored Manuel Margot for a 2-1 win.
Another one run game awaited the duo the next day, but it took only the regular nine innings for the Rays to score a 5-4 win. Imagine how comfortable Toronto felt to actually win by a whopping two runs to split the four game series, even though the insurance did not reach the board until the ninth inning.
Unfortunately, Toronto and Tampa will not meet again in the regular season, but a matchup in the playoffs is more than likely. Both teams, if the season were to end today, would qualify to compete in the expanded postseason format.
Even if they do not face off again in 2020, they have indeed given more proof that MLB should relocate the Rays to Montreal. Half of their games required extra innings, their team names rhyme, and they should be competing for the bragging rights of an entire country.