The Tampa Bay Rays bounced back from a gut wrenching loss on Monday, scoring late and holding on to defeat the defending world champs, 2-1, Tuesday night. Wilson Ramos’ go ahead RBI single in the top of the eighth inning proved to be the winning run for Tampa Bay, while an effectively wild Blake Snell held the Astros to just one run over seven innings of work.
Snell immediately found himself in trouble in the first inning. Houston loaded the bases with one out, but Evan Gattis flew out to Carlos Gomez in right. George Springer chose to test the arm of his former teammate, tagging up and trying to score from third, however, he was thrown out — he missed the plate on his slide and was tagged out by Ramos.
Carlos Gomez catches a fly ball in shallow right field, then fires home to nab George Springer and end the 1st inning
After Gomez stole the run from Houston, C.J. Cron launched a 95 mph Justin Verlander fastball (over the inner third of the plate) deep into the Crawford Boxes in left.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 20, 2018
The solo shot was Cron’s 16th home run of the season which tied a career high. This time though, he reached the milestone in just 70 games, which is 30 games fewer than in previous seasons.
Houston tied the game in the bottom of the third when Springer reached on a one-out fielder’s choice. After a wild-pitch moved Springer into scoring position, Alex Bregman, hit a deep single to right field, plating the run. Yet Bregman was also thrown out by Gomez as he attempted to stretch the base hit into a double.
Houston rallied once again in the bottom of the sixth, and it all started when Snell allowed back-to-back free passes to Bregman and Carlos Correa to start the frame. Yet the southpaw got Yuli Gurriel to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. After Kevin Cash opted to walk Evan Gattis, putting runners on the corners, Tony Kemp flew out to center to end the threat.
Kevin Kiermaier made his return to the starting lineup in his first game since tearing a ligament in his right thumb. The Outlaw was immediately placed into the leadoff spot, where he went 0-5 at the plate. He, however, did make a nice leaping catch at the wall in deep right-center to end the seventh inning.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay reclaimed the lead with a one-run rally in the top of the eighth. Matt Duffy led off the frame with a first pitch double to right against reliever Hector Rondon. After the game, Duffy said he watched how Rondon worked Kiermaier with two outs in the seventh. This, along with what he knew about the reliever, as well as from the scouting reports, the Rays’ third baseman was convinced that he’d get a slider at some point in the at-bat.
Typically catcher’s call fall into patterns, too, Duffy said. Verlander was slider, slider, slider my third at-bat and I didn’t look great on ’em. That combined with the fact that he’s slider-heavy in general. He wasn’t afraid of his slider to (Kevin Kiermaier, for the out of the seventh) which typically right on left a guy’s not going to throw as many sliders.
I feel like it was just a lot of factors adding the fact that he might try to sneak a strike with a slider.
Rondon did, and Duffy made him pay.
Jake Bauers followed with a fielder’s choice to the right side, moving Duffy up third base.
Biggest at-bat of the night, Duffy said. Let him swing the bat there against a tough pitcher who’s got a lot of velo behind him. It’s not easy to get around that ball. A veteran (pitcher) like that, a lot of times he’ll see a young guys who’s trying to get the head (of the bat) out he’ll just feed him off-speed pitches to get him to swing and miss. Just a professional at-bat.
Finally, Ramos chopped a ball that ticked off the glove of a leaping Gurriel with the infield drawn in. Duffy got a good enough jump and easily scored what became the winning run.
That made a winner out of Snell, who threw seven effectively wild innings; outlasting Justin Verlander in a matchup he was very excited about. The southpaw gave up seven walks (one intentional) — a career high — but also allowed three hits and just one run against one of the top offenses in the game. He fanned six and threw 102 pitches overall (57 strikes, 56% strike rate). Snell also coaxed a pair of big double plays.
Very excited we beat a great starting pitcher in Verlander, best in the league, and were able to get the win, Snell said after the game. Just a great team win.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 20, 2018
Snell became the first pitcher to work seven or more innings and walk at least seven since Edwin Jackson’s 149-pitch, eight-walk no-hitter against the Rays on June 25, 2010.
A day after he opened the game, Ryne Stanek pitched a perfect eighth despite a trio of three-ball counts.
Then in the ninth, with veteran relievers Johnny Venters and Sergio Romo warming behind him, Jose Alvarado allowed a single to Evan Gattis before he pinch-hitter Jose Altuve to flew out deep to center. Sergio Romo entered the game and struck out Max Stassi before Tony White reached on a fluky infield hit that trickled past the mound. Nevertheless Romo got Jake Marisnick to pop out to second, ending the game.
The New What Next
The Rays wrap up their road trip on Wednesday with Nathan Eovaldi (1-2, 4.63 ERA) on the mound. He will be opposed by Charlie Morton (8-1, 2.94 ERA).
Nathan Eovaldi allowed five runs over 7-1/3 innings in his last start on Friday. He struck out five. Eovaldi largely cruised through the Yankees lineup, with the exceptions of a third inning solo shot and a sixth inning sac fly, before running out of gas in a three-run eighth. Eovaldi has been hit or miss in his four starts since returning from the DL, allowing three runs or more in three of those starts. He is 1-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four career starts against the Astros.
Charlie Morton allowed three runs on four hits over six innings against the Royals on Friday. He struck out nine and walked four. Morton gave up a two-run double to Mike Moustakas in the third inning then later walked Moustakas with the bases loaded in the fifth. The walks are a problem for Morton (he walked six in 3-2/3 innings in his previous start), but he was still able to come away with the win thanks to an Evan Gattis grand slam. The right-hander has performed to a 2.94 ERA and 1.14 WHIP along with an excellent 3.18 K/BB over 82-2/3 innings. This season Morton has relied primarily on a 97 mph four-seam fastball with obvious tail and natural sinking action, a whiffy 80 mph knuckle curveball with sweeping glove-side movement and sharp downward bite, and a 96 mph two-seam sinker with some slight armside run, while also mixing in a whiffy 89 mph cutter and an 88 mph splitter with armside fade. Morton is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (1-3), Carlos Gomez (6-16, HR), Adeiny Hechavarria (2 2B, BB), Wilson Ramos (5-13, RBI, BB)
You can read about the series in our preview.
Rays 6/20/18 Starting Lineup