Lucas Duda hit a franchise record-setting home run on Saturday, while Jake Odorizzi posted his third consecutive strong start for the Rays in his last four outings. Tampa Bay won for the second straight night over Baltimore, 9-6, in spite of a rather ugly bottom of the ninth.
The Rays start the day with an elimination number of three, meaning any combination of either three Rays losses, or three Twins wins, will knock Tampa Bay out of the race. Still, the Rays have a few things to play for over the next seven games/eight days:
- If they go 5-2 over the balance of the schedule, they will end the season with a .500 record (6-1 for a +.500 record). The pending free-agents on the ball club — Steve Cishek, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Tommy Hunter, Alex Cobb, and Sergio Romo — are looking to finish the season strongly ahead of what could be rather large paydays.
- The team is looking for the rumored to be trade candidates — Brad Miller, Jake Odorizzi, and Chris Archer (although that’s unlikely) — to accrue more value for a better return, as the Rays look to rebuild and restock this winter.
- There’s pride, after all no one likes to lose.
- Last but certainly not least, there’s the remote 0.5% chance that Tampa Bay could eke this out.
As for last night’s action, I’ll leave that to the inimitable Neil Solondz (Rays Radio):
Odorizzi allowed one run or fewer for the third time in that four-start stretch. Odorizzi’s given up just five total hits in the three impressive outings. In this start he gave up three hits and two walks while striking out a season-high nine.
Baltimore actually took a 1–0 lead against Odorizzi and the Rays in the first. Jonathan Schoop doubled to left with two out. Adam Jones then hit a grounder wide of first and Duda threw to first and it deflected off Jones up the right field line. Schoop scored on the miscue and Jones ended up at third on the infield hit and two-base throwing error. Odorizzi struck out Chris Davis to limit the damage. Odorizzi held the Orioles to 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position with three strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay had just five baserunners in six innings against former Rays righty Jeremy Hellickson, but made them count. With two out in the third, Adeiny Hechavarria singled to center, the first player to reach against Hellickson. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a base hit to left-center, putting runners at the corners. Lucas Duda, who started the day 7-for-14 against Hellickson, got ahead 3–0 before hitting the ninth pitch of the at-bat over the right field wall for a 3–1 lead.
Duda’s homer was the 217th for Tampa Bay, setting a new franchise record, surpassing last year’s mark. It was the 13th homer for Duda with the Rays, and 30th overall.
The Rays tacked on two unearned runs against Richard Bleier in the seventh. Steven Souza Jr was hit by a pitch with one out, and Corey Dickerson reached on a rare Manny Machado error. Wilson Ramos then singled to right, scoring Souza for a 4–1 lead. A Brad Miller sac fly followed, making it 5–1.
Tampa Bay then scored four runs in the ninth against Mike Wright. Logan Morrison made it 6–1 with his 37th homer this season. Only Carlos Pena has hit more homers in a season with Tampa Bay. Brad Miller added a run-scoring double, and Adeiny Hechavarria capped a four-run rally with a two-run single.
After Odorizzi, Andrew Kittredge threw a scoreless seventh. Sergio Romo got two outs in the eighth and Xavier Cedeno got the final out in that frame.
Chase Whitley allowed five hits to start the ninth (although one was a potential double play ball that was scored a hit), allowing Baltimore to score three runs. Whitley then gave way to Tommy Hunter. After Manny Machado’s ground single to left made it 9–5, Jonathan Schoop flew out for the first out. Adam Jones struck out, but Chris Davis singled, making it 9–6. Alex Colome then got Trey Mancini, the 10th batter of the inning to fly to right, ending the game, as Colome earned his 46th save.
The New What Next
The Rays will look to win the four-game set this afternoon with Chris Archer (9-11, 4.02 ERA, 3.38 FIP) on the mound. He will pitch opposite of Dylan Bundy (13-9, 4.24 ERA, 4.38 FIP).
Archer went six innings Tuesday against the Cubs, his longest start since August 27 (vs. St. Louis) — snapping a streak of three consecutive starts of four innings pitched or fewer. He has lost four straight decisions for the third time in his career, although considering that Archer’s last three appearances had seen him give up 13 runs (11 earned) in a grand total of seven innings, this represents a big leap forward.
Bundy, like Hellickson before him, was lambasted in his last start, allowing six runs on seven hits and a walk over 4-1/3 innings, while fanning just a pair. The right-hander is 1-1 but with a 5.19 ERA in three starts against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (2-7, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (5-15, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Brad Miller (2-8, HR, RBI), Logan Morrison (5-12, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB), Mallex Smith (2-5, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-10, 2B, HR, RBI)
Rays 9/24/17 Starting Lineup
— Piggybacking on what I wrote yesterday, Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) speculated what the middle of the infield could look like in 2018:
SECOND BASE: Given Brad Miller’s stunning dropoff, you could say the Rays made one mistake in trading Logan Forsythe and making Miller the second baseman, then another in sticking with Miller and trading Tim Beckham, who would have been a good fallback even though he didn’t want to play second. Will the Rays try again and bring back Miller, who will make more than $4 million via arbitration? Hmmm. But they’re not just going to dump him, so maybe a trade — attaching him to a pitcher — makes the most sense. If so, they could turn to Matt Duffy — yes, the one who spent all season trying to work his way back from injury. Or find a veteran on the cheap. Or, less likely, go with one of the kids, Daniel Robertson or top prospect Willy Adames, though he’d be better at his natural shortstop spot.
SHORTSTOP: Coaches, fellow infielders and particularly pitchers rave daily about the dazzling defense played by Adeiny Hechavarria since he was acquired in late June, and he has made some adjustments to improve his offense as well. It will cost the Rays a bit to keep him, somewhere in the $6 million range via arbitration in his final year before free agency, but they’ve had to see enough to realize he’s worth it. Otherwise, they could go back to trying Duffy. Can’t see them just turning it over to Adames.
— How great would it be for Stu Sternberg to sign off on the re-signings of Hunter, Romo, and Cishek?