It was one of those games where Miguel Cabrera’s walk-off home run could be seen from a mile away.
Despite battling back from a one-run deficit in the top of the eighth inning — thanks to Steven Souza Jr’s no-doubter to left-field to tie the game at three — Tommy Hunter quickly fell behind Alex Avilla 3-1 before giving up a one out base hit. Hunter also quickly fell behind Miggy, 2-1, before he threw a mistake fastball over the heart of the plate.
Cabrera being Cabrera didn’t swing through the errant fastball, rather he barreled it up and sent it to the opposite field for the game winning homer.
All this came after Alex Cobb’s workman-like start against Justin Verlander. It wasn’t a pitching duel by any stretch of the imagination, but Cobb battled and gave up only two runs over 6-2/3 innings. The Rays’ right-hander fanned just three batters, and walked a pair while giving up eight hits, although he was able to lean on his split-change — throwing it 17 times (12 for strikes, two whiffs), which is a lot compared to the number he threw earlier in the season. The Tigers only put two of them in play, and the pitch did appear to regain some of its pre-surgery depth.
Verlander put together a similar performance, forcing the Rays to cobble together some offense. In the top of the second inning, Tampa Bay manufactured a run after Logan Morrison led off the frame with a line-drive single into left-center field, before Steven Souza Jr. worked a free pass. Colby Rasmus followed with a chopper to first base, which allowed both runners to move up. Daniel Robertson plated the run on a grounder up the middle.
Then Mallex Smith led things off with a single to right in the third. Two batters later, Morrison lashed a hanging curve over the head of Alex Presley in center. As the ball bounded to the wall, Smith scored from first.
Unfortunately a rare error by Robertson allowed the Tigers to regain the lead in the seventh inning. Jumbo Diaz — on in relief for Cobb — coaxed what should have been an inning ending ground ball to short. Robertson positioned himself to get behind the ball yet slipped on wet infield, which allowed the ball to punch through the infield, breaking the deadlock. For the sure handed Robertson, it was the second error of the game after not erring all season. To his credit, he did start a double play in the fifth inning when he made a ridiculous backhanded stab from one knee, then fired over to Michael Martinez at second.
Speaking of ridiculous plays, Smith made a diving catch on a sinking line drive. As BA noted on the telecast, he didn’t take a perfect route, and he wasn’t sure whether he could get there or play it off the bounce. However, his speed and athleticism allowed him to make the proper adjustment, which resulted in an out.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 16, 2017
The New What Next
The Rays and Tigers play the second of four games on Friday. Erasmo Ramirez (3-1, 4.20 ERA, 3.73 FIP) will get the start opposite left-hander Daniel Norris (3-4, 4.41 ERA, 4.17 FIP).
Ramirez allowed 10 hits and a walk over 5-1/3 innings, yet held Oakland to three runs in his last start. He beat the Tigers in the final game of the above mentioned three-game sweep, allowing just two hits and one run.
Norris hasn’t completed the fifth inning in three of his 12 starts, including his last start against Tampa Bay on April 20. He has allowed an equal number hits to the number of strikeouts he’s collected over his previous four starts, with a 3.63 ERA over that span. It appears that he has started to fix things, as his self inflicted wounds (and/or the wounds inflicted by others) don’t appear to be effecting him as much. Take a recent start against the BoSox for example, when he worked around a third inning misplay in centerfield which allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to move into scoring position with one out. He limited the damage and work out of the jam. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (1-2), Evan Longoria (4-7, 2B, RBI, BB), Michael Martinez (1-1, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-8, 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Jesus Sucre (1-2)
Rays 6/16/17 Starting Lineup