The Tampa Bay Rays got off the schneid on Saturday, snapping a three-game losing skid by scoring a pair of runs in the seventh inning, and holding on for a 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers. The win moved Rays back to one game over .500.
Tampa Bay took an early lead in a pitcher’s duel that was scoreless until the fifth inning. The Rays found themselves in two scoring opportunities in the first in third innings, however, Tigers’ hurler Michael Fulmer coaxed a pair of double plays to wipe the slate clean on the good guys. Yet things changed in the fifth when Colby Rasmus lined a one-out double to right, and Tim Beckham walked. Daniel Robertson did what he’s done the whole series, plating a run on a single to center, scoring Rasmus and moving Beckham up to third. Even though Robertson was able to move into scoring position on the throw into third, the Rays were unable to add to the lead after Derek Norris struck out, and Mallex Smith grounded out to first.
Something Archer has had trouble with this season is putting together a lockdown inning after his team takes a lead, and per usual, Detroit answered when Austin Romine — 6-for-15 against the Rays ace — hit a bloop single into shallow left-field, just out of the reach of Beckham. He was able to get former teammate Mikie Mahtook to go down swinging on five pitches before Jose Iglesias hit a comebacker right at the right-hander. Archer fielded the ball, but stumbled in doing so, and lost his chance to get the lead runner at second. With two outs, Ian Kinsler worked a nine-pitch at-bat before he lashed a game tying double off the left-field wall.
A pitch (and an inning) later, Miguel Cabrera hit his second homer of the series on a first pitch fastball that Archer left over the inner third of the plate, giving Detroit a one-run advantage.
Miguel Cabrera launches a solo home run into the right-field seats to put the Tigers ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the 6th inning
He, however, was able to limit damage by striking out Romine, and getting Mahtook to ground into an inning ending double play with runners on the corners and one out. Archer fanned a total of eight batters over six innings, although interestingly enough, seven of the strikeouts came on his slider, giving him an MLB-high 91 this season. Max Scherzer ranks second with 66 slider strikeouts.
Since the Tigers were 30-18 when they hit a home run, the odds were stacked against Tampa Bay for a comeback — especially after what Le Tigre did to the Rays over the previous two days. Yet in spite of the odds, the Rays took the lead on a couple of two-out runs in the seventh. Steven Souza Jr. quickly fell behind 0-2 before battling back and earning a walk to start the frame, then moved up 90 feet on Rasmus’ groundout. Beckham followed with a productive at-bat, hitting a hard ground out to second, which advanced Souza to third. Robertson was next, and he singled off Kinsler’s glove, knotting the game at two. It was the fifth consecutive run that Robertson had driven in.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 17, 2017
After Norris chased Fulmer on a single to left, Brad Ausmus called upon the services of Alex Wilson.
Smith, looking to make up for his yips in the outfield, welcomed Wilson by hitting a single to right for the go ahead lead. To his credit, Wilson was able to limit the damage by striking out Corey Dickerson.
It now was up to the Rays bullpen to do its job. Jumbo Diaz worked around a two-out walk in a scoreless seventh, then started the eighth. The rather hefty right-hander struck out J.D. Martinez to open the frame, but allowed a one-out double that deflected off of Beckham at short, and was overrun by Dickerson in left. With the leverage increasing, Kevin Cash called upon Alex Colome to do something he had not done all season — earn a five-out save.
Colome struck out Alex Presley on a 3–2 pitch, and got pinch-hitter Nick Castellanos to ground out to third to end that threat.
Then in the ninth, the Tigers got the tying run on second with two outs, the product of a Mahtook bouncer that got under the glove of Evan Longoria. A sacrifice bunt, moving the former Ray into second, and a fly-out later, the left-handed hitting Avila stepped into the box. In the words of Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), the Rays had some decisions to make as they set up their shifted defense. At the start of the at-bat, they had shortstop Tim Beckham holding Mahtook at second.
Third-base/infield coach Charlie Montoyo went up to Cash and bench coach Tom Foley in the dugout and suggested they move Beckham over to the first base-side of the bag, where Avila was more likely to hit it, even though it meant Mahtook, as the tying run, would likely take third, which he promptly did.
‘We felt it was more important at the time to cover more ground toward the pull side,’ Cash said. ‘I think that shows how much confidence we have in Alex Colome. We’ll give up 90 feet to get (the tying run) to third, trusting that if we put the guys in the right spot, we can make a play and he’ll make a pitch.’
Colome made a pitch, an 88 mph cutter that Avila could only roll over and hit to the right side.
And the Rays made a play, Beckham barely having to move, to seal the win.
Game over, Rays win 3-2….thanks in part to the shift!
The New What Next
The Rays look to split the four-game set against the Tigers today. Jacob Faria (2-0, 1.42 ERA, 1.78 FIP) will get the start opposite Buck Farmer (2-0, 3.52 ERA, 2.80 FIP).
Faria was impressive yet again in his last start. His stuff, especially his changeup, was electric, and he fooled Toronto’s hitters left and right. He was poised and efficient, allowing just three hits on 70 pitches over five innings — calmly taking a shutout into the seventh against the power-laden Blue Jays.
Farmer had a 13-inning scoreless streak snapped in his last start, when he allowed six runs in 2-1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks. This season, the 26 year-old right-hander has relied upon a whiffy 92 MPH four-seam fastball and 85 MPH changeup, while also mixing in a 91 MPH sinker with arm-side run, a 79 MPH 12-6 slider, and a swing and miss 81 MPH cutter. Farmer faced the Rays once in relief in 2015, allowing a home run in one-third of an inning.
Rays 6/18/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr RF
— A couple of important pieces to the roster continue to work their way back from injuries. In a rehab appearance with Triple-A Durham, Brad Boxberger tossed another scoreless inning yesterday. He allowed one hit while striking out a pair. Wilson Ramos caught seven innings, the second consecutive game he’s done so. Both could rejoin the team by the end of the week. Per Topkin, Matt Duffy (left heel) may get some clarity on his recurring issues Monday when he goes to Charlotte to see Dr. Bob Anderson, who did the September surgery.
— Trevor Plouffe, acquired from Oakland, will officially join the active roster tomorrow at Tropicana Field. Either Taylor Featherston (an option remaining) or Michael Martinez (no options remaining) are likely to go.