Rick Zamperin: Coronavirus-shortened season started well for Blue Jays until disaster struck

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu delivers to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, July 24, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

One series into their coronavirus pandemic-shortened season and the Toronto Blue Jays are already dealing with a serious dose of adversity.

After winning their season-opening game in Tampa Bay on Friday night, the Blue Jays lost on Saturday and Sunday, the latter of which included more than just a drop in the standings.

Closer Ken Giles was forced to leave Sunday’s series finale with right elbow soreness while he tried to close the door on a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, while outfielder Randal Grichuk left in the sixth inning with what the team called a “right SI joint irritation” — a.k.a., a sore back.

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Despite losing the final two games of the series, the Jays played the Rays really tough and they can take a couple of positives away from their visit to Tropicana Field.

New ace Hyun Jin Riu, who arrived in Toronto as a free agent after spending his first six big league seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was good in his Blue Jays debut on Friday — giving up three runs over 4 2/3 innings in a 6-4 win over T-Bay.

Read more: Kiermaier’s triple in 10th lifts Rays over Blue Jays, 6-5

Despite losing 4-1 on Saturday, right-hander Matt Shoemaker was great in his first start in 462 days (thanks to a season-ending ACL injury in April 2019) as he allowed just one run through six innings and kept the Rays’ hitters guessing all night.

Second baseman Cavan Biggio enjoyed a nice opening weekend at Tropicana Field, going 5-for-13 with two runs scored, and a three-run homer on Friday night.

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Give credit to manager Charlie Montoyo as well for injecting a number of different players across the diamond — fielding three different starting lineups each day — and offering them a taste of this unprecedented 2020 Major League Baseball season.

However, if the Jays are forced to play without Giles and Grichuk for an extended period of time it will be a massive blow to their chances of slipping into a playoff spot during this 60-game season.

Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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