Hutchison allowed just three hits and tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings, while Adam Lind homered in his first at-bat of the season to lead the Blue Jays to their first victory of the season, 4-2, over the Rays.
"I just got into a rhythm and I got there," Hutchison said of battling through the early struggles. "On nights like that you keep grinding and you find it. [Dioner Navarro] did a good job in getting me there and I was able to throw some good offspeed stuff. I threw some good sliders, too, when I was struggling to get the double-play ball and some other ones, so it was a good night."
Hutchison was one of Toronto's top pitchers during Spring Training and even if it wasn't easy, that success carried into his first start of season. He issued three walks and allowed those three hits, but got away with it each time by keeping the Rays hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position.
That was enough to give Hutchison his first win since June 3, 2012, after missing the past year and a half because of Tommy John surgery. Hutchison hasn't displayed any ill effects from that procedure in Florida this spring, though, as he consistently hit 92 mph on his fastball -- occasionally getting it up to 93 -- and with the exception of the walks, he was commanding his pitches to both sides of the plate.
Hutchison also kept his poise whenever Tampa Bay was able to stage a rally. With one out in the second, he walked a pair, then got a ground-ball double play off the bat of Logan Forsythe to end the inning. In the fifth, Hutchison stranded a one-out double by once again getting Forsythe to ground out and then striking out Ryan Hanigan.
"That was his first time in such a long time, it kind of kicked in a little bit, the adrenaline, so much stuff going on," Navarro said. "He battled the first few innings, but then he kind of settled in really nice.
"Compared to what he did in the spring, I know he wasn't feeling the way he wanted to feel, but sometimes it is what it is. He worked out there, he worked his butt off and he gave us a chance to win."
The Blue Jays did themselves a big favor by striking early against Rays starter Alex Cobb. Melky Cabrera led off with a single to right and advanced to second on a walk to Jose Bautista. That set the table for Lind, who proceeded to send a 3-1 changeup over the wall in straightaway center.
Lind added a single to complete his two-hit night. Cabrera also had a two-hit game while Colby Rasmus had his first double of the season. One of the surprise contributors on offense was light-hitting shortstop Jonathan Diaz, who got the start after Jose Reyes was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Diaz walked in his first at-bat and then had an RBI single in the fourth inning for the first hit of his Major League career.
Cobb managed to get through just five innings and was forced to throw 104 pitches as the Blue Jays consistently found a way to get into deep counts. The Tampa Bay righty allowed five hits and four walks while striking out three to take his first loss of the year.
"It's hard to come from behind against Tampa," Lind said. "When you're in the lead, they're out of their comfort zone and when you're running out of innings, they want to be with their pitching staff where they can just tack on a run here or there. It's paramount to get a lead against these guys because even when it's 1-0, they're definitely in the driver's seat."
The Rays rallied in the ninth against right-hander Sergio Santos by scoring one and then putting the tying run on second base. Santos was able to get out of the jam by striking out former Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar.
That ninth could have unfolded a whole lot differently if the Blue Jays didn't enter that frame with a three-run lead. Hutchison was one of the main reasons why they did.
"The biggest thing I saw from him today, because, obviously I hadn't seen him, his fastball just got on you so quick," Rays outfielder Wil Myers said. "It was hard to really judge the speed. It said 91, but it looked mid-90s. Fastball had a good ride to it. And he didn't make many mistakes. Really kept his pitches down."