The Rays started the season 2-0 for just the fifth time in their 25-year history. (Photo Credit: XRaysSpex)

After defeating the Orioles for the second consecutive day — this time, 5-3 — the Tampa Bay Rays look for a series sweep this afternoon at the Trop.

Drew Rasmussen got the start and tossed four solid innings of two-run ball on three hits and a walk while striking out three. All the damage against Rasmussen came off of the bat of Ryan Mountcastle, who launched a first-pitch hanging slider into the first row of the right-field seats for a two-run shot in the third inning. He departed after the fourth inning at 64 pitches 41 strikes, 64% strike rate).

Rasmussen mixed his pitches well, which included his new slider which he worked on during the off-season and Spring Training. The aforementioned pitch has at least 13 inches of glove-side movement as compared to his standard slider which averaged around four inches.

On top of that, he also leaned on a 95-96 mph cutter with 20 inches of vertical movement which, frankly, is a little unfair.

Aside from one misplaced slider, it was a strong season debut for the 26-year-old who performed to a 4-1 record with a 2.84 ERA and 1.08 WHIP across 35 appearances and 10 starts between the Brewers and Rays last season.

Meanwhile, Josh Fleming followed with an extremely efficient, 38 pitch (29 strikes, 76% strike rate) 3.1 inning outing, with five strikeouts and no walks.

Fleming attacked the zone with his sinker and coaxed weak contact when he wasn’t fanning Orioles’ hitters. He gave up just three hits.

Meanwhile, Josh Lowe helped get the Rays on the board in the second inning against Baltimore starter Jordan Lyles. Lowe fell behind 0-2 before he worked the count full. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Lowe ripped a triple to right-center. Across his first six plate appearances, Lowe had seen 42 pitches. Five of those six plate appearances went to a full count. The rookie outfielder is averaging seven pitches per plate appearance, and already has a single, a triple, and two walks to his credit.

Francisco Mejía, who drove home the game-winning run on Friday, plated the first run of the game on an RBI base hit to right-center for a 1-0 lead. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a ground-rule double to left before Taylor Walls walked to load the bases. Up next, Brett Phillips ripped a liner to first that seemed destined for the right-field corner if not for Ryan Mountcastle, who made a diving stop. Yet, Mejía was able to cross the plate for a two-run advantage.

After Brandon Lowe walked to re-load the bases, Wander Franco lined a sacrifice fly to right, capping the rally.

An inning later, Lowe lined a one-out single to right, before Mejía crushed a two-run homer to right for a three-run advantage — giving him four RBI in his first three plate appearances of 2022.

Back on the mound, JP Feyereisen got the last two outs in the eighth inning, setting the stage for a save opportunity in the ninth.

Andrew Kittredge took the mound in the ninth inning and allowed a Ramon Urias leadoff double, and a two-out ground-rule RBI double to Jorge Mateo making it a 5-3 game. But, that’s as close as they’d get as Kittredge struck out pinch hitter DJ Stewart to end the game.

The New What Next

Corey Kluber (5-3, 3.83 ERA last season) will get the start in the series finale, pitching opposite of Tyler Wells (2-3, 4.11 ERA last season).

Corey Kluber gave up one run over five innings with five strikeouts and one walk in a loss Tuesday against Atlanta. He gave up five earned runs with eight strikeouts and one walk in 8.1 innings this spring. Kluber’s 8.0 K/BB ratio is encouraging as he enters the regular season, and he looks sharp despite a spring 5.40 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Kluber is 5-1 with a 3.15 ERA in 10 career starts against Baltimore.

Tyler Wells missed all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the canceled minor-league season, although he returned as a reliever last season and pitched fairly well. He performed to a 4.11 ERA across 57 innings, with a strong 29.0% strikeout rate and 5.4% walk rate being offset by a very low 21.4% groundball rate. Wells gave up two earned runs on four hits across six innings against Tampa Bay last season. He relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in an 86 mph slider, a firm 87 mph changeup with arm-side fade, and a 77 mph curveball. Key Matchups: Brandon Lowe (1-2), Mike Zunino (1-2, HR, 2 RBI)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.

Rays 4/10/22 Starting Lineup

  1. B. Lowe 2B
  2. Franco SS
  3. Arozarena LF
  4. Choi 1B
  5. Díaz 3B
  6. J. Lowe RF
  7. Ramirez DH
  8. Zunino C
  9. Margot CF