Mike Zunino gave Tampa Bay the go-ahead lead with his first home run of the season, as the Rays snapped their four-game losing skid with a 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Monday.
The ballgame got off to an inauspicious start when Alex Gordon hit a first-inning solo home run off right-hander Yonny Chirinos. But the Rays answered in the bottom half of the frame after Tommy Pham tripled to right, then scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Yandy Diaz.
The Royals took the lead back on a pair of solo homers in the fifth (Jorge Soler) and sixth innings (Hunter Dozier) respectively. Even though Tampa Bay found that scratching across another run was a tall order, at least until the sixth inning, the team barreled up more than a few balls, giving Kansas City’s starter, Brad Keller, an omen of what was to come.
Before they took the lead for good in the seventh, the Rays got within a run in the bottom of the sixth. Zunino walked to start the frame but was forced out on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Willy Adames. The unproductive out proved fortuitous for the Rays, however, as Brandon Lowe doubled into the right-center gap, scoring Adames — a far faster runner than Zunino — from first.
The real action came in the seventh inning, with the Rays down by a run. Avisail Garcia started the rally with a double to the left-center gap off Keller. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a broken-bat grounder against the shift for a single, allowing Garcia to move up 90 feet. Daniel Robertson tied the game with an RBI groundout, bringing Zunino to the plate. Zunino fell behind in the count 0-2 before he drilled a pitch off the batter’s eye in center field for a 5-3 lead.
It was Zunino’s first home run with the Rays and came the day he returned from the paternity list after his son Rhett Michael was born.
That put Wilmer Font, who struck out Adalberto Mondesi with two on and two out in the top of the seventh, on the winning side of the ledger.
Adam Kolarek followed with a perfect top of the eighth before Yandy Diaz added an insurance run on a homer to right off Scott Barlow in the bottom of the innings, making it a three-run contest.
It was Diaz’s sixth homer of the season … not bad for someone who “doesn’t hit home runs.”
Emilio Pagan finished out the game with a 1-2-3 ninth, earning his first big league save after he collected two with Triple-A Durham.
The New What Next
Game two of the three-game series will take place on Tuesday. Ryne Stanek will open the contest and will be followed by either Ryan Yarbough (2-1, 5.84 ERA) or Jalen Beeks as the bulk inning guy for Tampa Bay. They’ll pitch opposite of Homer Bailey (2-1, 2.64 ERA). I will update this piece once any updates are made available.
Ryan Yarbrough allowed three runs on three hits, including a home run, in three innings of work against the Red Sox on Friday. It is not certain whether he will pitch on Tuesday, or if Kevin Cash will lean on someone like Jalen Beeks as the bulk innings guy. I will update this piece once any updates are made available.
Homer Bailey allowed just two hits over seven shutout innings. He struck out six, walked two, and earned his first win since last May. The veteran right-hander has a 5.29 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and a 3.5 K/BB through his first three starts (17 innings of work). Bailey relies primarily on his 94 mph four-seam fastball with natural sinking action, and an 85 mph worm-killer splitter, while also mixing in a hard 88 mph 12-6 slider, and a 79 mph knuckle curveball. Key Matchups: Yandy Diaz (1-1, 2B, RBI), Tommy Pham (3-11, RBI, BB)
You can read about the series in our preview.
Rays 4/23/19 Starting Lineup
- Diaz DH
- Stanek RHP
— Marc Topkin was known as the snark of Twitter, but now he has a new claim to fame: King of all baseball-related puns.
Topkin still missed the opportunity to come up with a new nom de gare after Soler turned not one, but two line drives into triples when he crashed into the wall in right and toppled over.
Really Topkin? No Kool-Aid Man reference? It’s almost like you’re wasting all of your witty one-liners on sarcastic tweets about the Rays attendance.
— 1B/DH Ji-Man Choi is headed to the Restricted List writes Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), who broke the story.
Choi is headed to the ‘restricted list due to a “personal matter” and called up right-hander Austin Pruitt to add a fresh arm to their bullpen.
The issue with Choi is not a disciplinary matter, the Times has learned, and is only expected to keep him away from the team for a day or two. Technically, he is “attending to” a personal matter.
He has not played since leaving Saturday’s game with a left calf strain and said Monday he was feeling much better and expected to be able to play today.
Pruitt gives the Rays a right-handed option to work multiple innings tonight as they are planning to use Ryne Stanek as the opener and had only lefties Jalen Beeks and Ryan Yarbrough available to cover bulk innings.’— Marc Topkin
— Blake Snell will get the start in Wednesday’s matinee finale against the Royals.