Excitement over deadline additions spur Gausman, Blue Jays in win vs. Rays

Kevin Gausman allowed only one hit and struck out 10 over eight innings to help the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The TVs inside the visitor's clubhouse at Tropicana Field were all locked in on the trade deadline coverage as Kevin Gausman got ready for his start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday.

"Shohei Ohtani to the Toronto Blue Jays," one player called out playfully to his teammates. "Everybody here going to the Angels."

Jokes aside, the later-than-usual 6 p.m. ET cut-off for baseball’s annual swap fest meant the frenzied dealing bled into the daily prep that precedes every ballgame. A mix of excitement, anticipation and uncertainty made Gausman's pre-start routine feel "a little weird."

"It was like, we might start this game, something might happen I might not know about," he explained after carrying a no-hitter into the sixth and throwing eight one-hit innings in a 3-1 win over the Rays. "This was the first time I pitched on a day like this, but also a really exciting time. A lot of guys in there watching the TV wondering now who we're going to get, who are (we) going to give up, that type of thing. To not give up anybody in this locker room, I think was pretty big. We feel good where we're at. And even if we didn't make any moves, we'd still feel pretty confident. But bringing in the guys that we did, I think they're going to help us win."

The guys they brought in — relievers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop, starter Mitch White and the versatile Whit Merrifield — made for a sensible, if not sexy deadline haul.  Each helps to fortify various roster gaps and protect against injury while also augmenting the talent base for next year and beyond.

Moves that were more supportive than transformative for a Blue Jays team that by winning for the 13th time in 16 games, moved 13 games above .500 for the first time this season at 58-45.

"We're confident in our group right now," said shortstop Bo Bichette, who drove in the game’s first run with an RBI single in the first. "Anybody who can come here and help us is a plus. We're excited to see what's next, to just go out there and continue to compete."

Added Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who had two hits and scored on Bichette’s single, through interpreter Hector Lebron: "This is our group, this is our clubhouse, these are our guys and we're going to go to the end."

The deadline dealing played out right to the very end for the Blue Jays, who snuck the Merrifield and White deals in just under the line.

Merrifield is particularly interesting given both the way he fits the roster and for his uncertain vaccination situation. While the latter piece plays out, the 33-year-old gives the Blue Jays a reliable and accomplished regular capable of moving around the diamond who deepens a bench that also includes Cavan Biggio and Raimel Tapia and can help cover centre field if George Springer's right elbow issue leads to a longer absence.

He'll also force interim manager John Schneider into more lineup juggling since GM Ross Atkins made it clear the Blue Jays see Merrifield as a full-time player.

"It's finding the right spot for guys every day and trying to plan ahead a little bit," said Schneider. "The way that we're rolling right now and you get contributions from a lot of different people in a lot of different ways, adding a guy like that with his versatility and skill set, it's a good problem to have. With a full roster, you know, it's a cool thing to have and it's some tough decisions but they're good tough decisions."

Merrifield, who broke in with the Royals in 2016 — the year after they won the World Series — is a two-time all-star and three times has led the American League in stolen bases.

"He's accomplished a lot," said Bichette. "He's accomplished some pretty cool things, been around. I think it's important for all of us to learn as much as we can from him and excited to see what he can bring. For me personally, I'm excited to be around him and talk to him and play ball with him."

White is expected to pitch both out of the rotation and bullpen, falling into the swingman role from which Ross Stripling vacated to cover for Hyun Jin Ryu. Bass, for the later innings, and Pop, early to midgame, help put more weapons at Schneider's disposal.

With the way Gausman pitched Tuesday, no relief help was needed. After a leadoff walk and a hit by pitch put two on, the veteran righty locked down the Rays, making the 1-0 lead stand up. He didn't allow a hit until Taylor Walls singled to open the sixth but he was promptly erased when Randy Arozarena hit into a double play.

Gausman finished with 10 strikeouts and was aware out on the mound of the fact that he was chasing a no-no.

"You definitely know, it was unfortunate that I wasn't able to do it," he said of getting that deep with the no-hitter intact. "But it just goes to show you how hard it is to do at the major league level and that's why there's not many of them. A good pitch, but Walls was right on it and all over it. But we did a good job of coming back after that, getting a ground ball double play and not letting them gain any momentum."

A bloop two-run single by Danny Jansen in the ninth opened up a wider cushion for the Blue Jays and that came in handy when Walls opened the bottom half with a solo shot off closer Jordan Romano, who closed things out with ease from there.

Schneider always appreciates add-on runs like those Jansen provided, "but especially here," he said. "Usually, the hit that Jano got seems to be the hits they get late in the game here. A three-run lead is a big difference (from) a one-run lead. But we were kind of operating in a one-run game the whole day, and we weren't flinching. It's always nice to have a little bit of a cushion."

Bass and Pop will be charged with helping preserve such leads down the road and they join Adam Cimber and Yimi Garcia as members of the 2021 Marlins bullpen now with the Blue Jays.

Cimber called them both, "electric."

"It's enjoyable now to look forward to what the next two months are going to look like for this team and trying to get (into) the post-season and go deep. These guys are going to help us do that," he said, adding later: "I think we're all looking for a boost. Everybody's trying to fortify their teams right now and I think it's a good move to help us get to where we want to get."

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.