ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam and the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays won a post-season series for the first time in 12 years, overpowering the young Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Wednesday to finish a two-game sweep of their AL wild-card matchup.
Renfroe launched the first playoff grand slam in franchise history during a six-run second inning. Tyler Glasnow kept Tampa Bay ahead from there, allowing two runs — on a pair of homers by Danny Jansen — in six innings.
Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer off Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu during Tampa Bay’s big inning. Manuel Margot and Randy Arozarena also drove in runs as the Rays advanced to the AL Division series against either the New York Yankees or Cleveland Indians.
The next round starts Monday at Petco Park in San Diego. Renfroe is plenty familiar with the stadium _ he hit 85 home runs in the previous three years for the Padres before being traded to the Rays last December.
The Rays celebrated with some hugs and handshakes after the final out.
Glasnow, who walked one and struck out eight before a small gathering of family and friends who were allowed to attend the series at Tropicana Field.
Ryu was rocked for a season-high seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, the lefty’s shortest outing of the season for the wild-card Blue Jays.
The Rays, who won Game 1 with a nice mix of pitching, defence and timely hitting, had dropped five consecutive multigame post-season series dating to the 2008 World Series.
A year ago, they beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before losing to Houston in the division round _ a five-game setback that nevertheless heightened team expectations heading into this season.
Manager Kevin Cash’s team delivered this year, winning the AL East.
Ryu signed with the Blue Jays in free agency last winter after being an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers and finishing second in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2019.
The 33-year-old lefty had the AL’s fourth-best ERA this season. And, his career mark of .295 is third-best behind Clayton Kershaw (2.43) and Jacob deGrom (2.61) among active pitchers with at least 700 innings pitched.
Ryu’s impressive credentials meant nothing Wednesday.
The Rays began the first inning with three straight hits and scored their first run on Manuel Margot’s one-out single. Ryu escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Willy Adames, however his outing got worse the next inning.
After Zunino’s homer made it 3-0, Tampa Bay loaded the bases again on a double, walk and shortstop Bo Bichette’s second error of the day.
Renfroe, obtained from San Diego in an off-season trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Padres, hit his grand slam into the left field seats to extend the lead to 7-0.