Marcus Stroman shines, Blue Jays offence picks up where it left off

It might only be the first game of the season, but with the Toronto Blue Jays looking strong in a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, fans couldn't help looking ahead to what great things this season might have in store.

Toronto ace throws 8-plus innings, holds Rays to 6 hits

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hit the first home run of the Major League Baseball season in a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. (Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press)

All eyes were on the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday as fans were eager to see if the defending AL East champions could live up to all the off-season hype.

Though it came right down to the final inning, Jays fans can breathe a small sigh of relief as Toronto started the season 1-0 with a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Any concerns about Edwin Encarnacion not batting in a Major League spring training game quickly faded away as the slugger drove home two runs with a single in the first inning, giving the Jays an early lead.

The Rays would get one back in the third inning off the bat of Evan Longoria's single, before Kevin Pillar had an RBI single of his own in the fourth.

Troy Tulowitzki would then provide some insurance late by knocking one out of the park in the eighth, bringing home Encarnacion and providing the first home run of the 2016 season for any player. Now 31 years old, Tulowitzki has only surpassed 140 regular-season games once (2011) since 2009, but if the shortstop continues to stay healthy, he could be a lethal threat in the Jays' lineup.

But maybe the biggest story for the Jays was the performance of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who threw eight-plus innings and held Tampa to three runs on six hits. Had he finished the game, Stroman would have become the first Blue Jays pitcher to throw a complete game on opening day since Jack Morris in 1992.

Instead, it was closer Roberto Osuna who made a little history of his own, becoming the youngest pitcher in MLB history to record a save on opening day. Osuna is just 21 years old.

So with the proverbial monkey off their backs and and many fans eagerly watching (the Jays are the second most followed MLB team on Twitter with 1.3 million followers, the most followed professional sports team in Canada) it seemed there was only one reasonable conclusion to draw about the outlook for the rest of the season.

Then again, maybe we should just take things one step at a time.


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