Rays lose to Blue Jays 5-3 in home opener

Posted at 7:38 PM, Apr 03, 2016

Chris Archer rebounded from a tough first inning, but it wasn't enough for Tampa Bay to overcome Marcus Stroman.

Stroman outpitched Archer in his first opening day start, helping the Toronto Blue Jays begin defense of their first AL East title in 22 years with a 5-3 victory over the Rays on Sunday.


The Blue Jays, the highest-scoring team in the majors last year, struck quickly on Edwin Encarnacion's two-run single in the first.

"Like the way Archer competed after he got through that first inning, and just kind of seemed to turn it on there," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "But with the way that guy was pitching on their end, there wasn't a ton to be done."

Archer struck out a Rays opening-day record 12 in five innings. The right-hander limited the Blue Jays to five hits, but walked three during a 107-pitch outing.

"I think it's pretty obvious that the first inning I was a little off," Archer said. "I always want to go more than five innings. But I understand that you can't be perfect every inning, every game. I was happy with how I bounced back. Overall, I wish I could have done a better job in the first inning, probably would have helped us out later."

Archer, who set a club record with 252 strikeouts last season, fanned the most batters on opening day since Seattle's Felix Hernandez struck out 12 against Oakland on April 2, 2007.

"We got those two (runs) when he was still a little nervous, but the great ones have a tendency to figure it out," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Archer's always been tough on us."

Stroman allowed three runs and six hits over eight-plus innings for the Blue Jays, who won 93 games in 2015 before making a run to the AL Championship Series in their first playoff appearance since 1993.

Troy Tulowitzki hit the first home run of the 2016 MLB season, a two-run shot for Toronto. Encarnacion had two hits and drove in two runs after not having an at-bat in a major league exhibition game all spring training because of injuries.

Evan Longoria had two hits and drove in Tampa Bay's first run with a third-inning single. Offseason acquisition Corey Dickerson added a solo homer off Stroman leading off the ninth, and Kevin Kiermaier drove in the final run charged to the starter with a bloop single off Roberto Osuna.

"The opposing pitcher was dealing," Archer said of Stroman.

Osuna got three outs for a save.

At 24 years, 338 days old, Stroman became the third-youngest pitcher to make an opening day start for the Blue Jays. He earned the assignment after making just four starts, going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA, in 2015, when he missed most of the season after undergoing surgery on his left knee during spring training.


Archer and Stroman are friends. Stroman was rehabbing his knee at the Blue Jays' complex in Florida last year when he came to Archer's first opening day start as his guest at Tropicana Field.


Archer became the first pitcher to strike out 12 or more and lose on opening day since Bob Gibson in 1975. ... Archer is 0-4 in seven starts since the beginning of September. His last nine outs came on strikeouts.


The Rays released 1B James Loney. He had been told last week that he would not be on the opening day roster.

Loney batted .280 with four homers and 32 RBIs in 104 games last year. In three seasons with Tampa Bay, he hit .291 with 26 homers and 176 RBIs in 414 games.

The 31-year-old became expendable after the Rays acquired Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce during the offseason.

"It's a difficult decision," Cash said. "He was a leader for us, had some good seasons."


George Wendt III, best known for playing Norm in the hit television series "Cheers" from 1982-93, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, bouncing a toss to the plate from in front of the mound.


Blue Jays: Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey starts the second game of a four-game series Monday night. He was 11-11 with a 3.91 ERA in 2015.

Rays: LHP Drew Smyly, who was 5-2 with a 3.11 ERA in 12 starts last season, starts Monday night.