Request for feedback: the upcoming season

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Hey all.

HardballTalk is about to enter its fifth season of covering this wonderful little game, and because I’m both bored this afternoon and interested in some interaction, I’m asking for some feedback about anything specific you’d like to see as far as regular season coverage goes.

Not that we’re planning on any radical changes. Indeed, we’re basically of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset around here. But if there are daily or weekly features you think that would make life great for you, make an argument for them in the comments or hit us up at the “Feedback” button on the upper righthand corder of the main page.

In the past we’ve done power rankings, but those got stale. We often do look aheads to the night’s action, but not always. We obviously do the morning And That Happened/Settling the Scores stuff. But if there’s anything else you’d like to see from us, we’re listening. We may not do it because this ain’t a democracy, but we are listening. And stealing your ideas and claiming them as our own.

As the guy who does the And That Happeneds, a question/request for info: how many of you read it between 6AM and 8AM Eastern? How many of you save it for later? I ask because, as I often do at the beginning of the season, I’m thinking about how best to make that somewhat labor-intensive feature work for you guys and for me.

One thought I had was pushing it a tad later — say 8AM Eastern or so. Doing so would make my evenings much easier as I usually begin composing it as the games finish up. But it’s not just a convenience thing. If I started working on it in the morning when I woke up, I’d be able to see more highlights and read after game quotes before writing, and that may lead to a bit more insight, jokes and stuff. If the real point is having a post — any post — up at 6AM for you guys to crack wise in, I could maybe do something highlighting one specific/fun/random thing from the previous night as a placeholder until ATH is done. Just spitballin’.

I’m really kind of agnostic about it all. On the one hand, I know a lot of you read that post first thing in the morning. On the other hand, I sometimes worry that fatigue and things make it lose some momentum in the middle of the season.  I’m really just looking for your comments.

Thanks, all. Sixteen days until Opening Day!

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.