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Jays start off fast, Marcus Stroman starts off strong against Rays

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For starters, this was no way for the Tampa Bay Rays to behave.

For starters, this was all about the Toronto Blue Jays, a team a lot of people are picking to win the American League East.

The Jays hit every proper button early and got off to a quick lead over the Rays and then coasted to a 5-3 victory.

How is this for a start? The Jays scored two runs before the Rays ever came to bat. Pitcher Marcus Stroman threw first-pitch strikes to 27 of 32 batters. And the Jays went on to win the opener at Tropicana Field Sunday.

“It was a well-pitched ballgame,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “Really well-pitched.”

The Rays, on the other hand, took their time gathering themselves. Starting pitcher Chris Archer gave up two runs, two hits, two walks and a wild pitch in a rough first inning before settling down. And the batting order waited until the ninth inning for three of its seven hits.

“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 you can’t be perfect every inning, every game.”

Oh, there were moments. Archer struck out 12 batters out of 15 outs he recorded, and the final nine outs he recorded were all by strikeout. Corey Dickerson hit a 387-foot home run, his first as a Ray. Evan Longoria had two hits.

Still, the game went Toronto’s way. It didn’t help, to be honest, that Kevin Kiermaier was thrown out trying to steal third to end the fourth inning. “A terrible baseball play,” he said.

For the most part, however, the game belonged to Stroman.

“We played a really good game,” Archer said. “You have to give credit to the opposing pitcher. When a pitcher is doing that, he’s putting hitters in a tough situation. You tip your hat and move on.”

Stroman will like hearing that.

“He’s one of my best friends,” Stroman said. “We’ve been talking about it for a while. I’m looking forward to pitching against him many more times.”

For most of the day, the Rays were swallowed up by the spectacle of Opening Day. The commissioner of baseball was here. The first pitch was thrown out by a character actor (George Wendt), whose sitcom (“Cheers”) hasn’t been on TV since the Rays have been alive.

Tampa Bay will play its second game Monday night against the Blue Jays with Drew Smyly on the mound against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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