Curt Schilling talks about what kind of color commentator he’ll be

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Bob Raissman of the Daily News spoke with Curt Schilling, ESPN’s new Sunday Night Baseball color commentator. They talked about style and stuff, and Schilling, quite characteristically, does not lack confidence:

“I can watch a pitcher for an inning and have a deep and wide understanding of who and what they are and what they do . . . If I were to talk to you about a pitch sequence to a hitter in the seventh inning, literally every pitch has 50 to 60 thoughts, ideas and processes around it and behind it,” Schilling said. “Just getting some of that out there is going to be different, new and unique.”

I don’t know how unique that is. Tim McCarver, Schilling’s predecessor Orel Hershiser and many others talk about what the pitcher is thinking. Maybe Schilling can do it better because he’s a better pitcher than most analysts ever were and is certainly a smart guy. But hearing Schilling talk about being “different, new and unique” gives me pause. I’d love him to just give us an enjoyable broadcast, not try to make his mark. But I suppose we’ll see how it plays out.

The other big issue that comes up: criticism of players. Schilling says he’s going to criticize in a way that is not negative. I’m not sure what that means. In the context of broadcasting — and in the opinion of players — there appears to be very little distinction made between criticizing performance and being personally negative or attacking someone. Merely saying a guy didn’t have a good game plan at the plate is taken as out-of-bounds criticism at times and, as a result, there is a big tendency among ex-athletes to say almost nothing negative. It’s really a drag, because sometimes you have to say something negative.

If Schilling is able to make that distinction — to hate the player’s game, not the player — that truly would be revolutionary. I hope he does it. Because viewers will be just as much if not more enlightened to understand what led to a player’s failure in any given moment than merely to what led to his success.

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.