The Tampa Bay Rays came from behind against the Phillies on Friday, and in doing so they notched their American League-leading 19th comeback win of the season.
At 38-20 on the season, the Rays enter play Saturday 18 games over .500 for the first time this season. They also moved one step closer to the top seed in the playoffs with two games left to play. An Oakland loss or a Tampa Bay win next two days of the season will give them the top spot in the AL.
The Rays took the initial lead in the second against Vince Velasquez. Kevin Kiermaier hit a one-out single to center, then got into Velasquez’s head as he jockeyed off first base and then off second when Mike Brosseau walked. After Hunter Renfroe struck out swinging on a fastball well above the zone, Brett Phillips collected the first of two hits, an RBI single to right.
Meanwhile, Charlie Morton got the start and looked dominant from the beginning of his outing, allowing just a walk to Bryce Harper over the first two frames, while striking out four. However, that changed in the third.
Scott Kingery grounded a one-out single to centerfield, then stayed out of an inning-ending double play because he was in motion when Andrew McCutchen hit a grounder to third. Kingery moved up third on a wild pitch before Alec Bohm flicked a single to right, tying the game at one. Harper followed, slashing a ball down the right-field line for a triple/Little League homer. He also crossed the plate when Willy Adames’ relay throw got past Brosseau at third, putting the Phillies up by two.
Kingery struck again in the fifth. The infielder hit a one-out double to left-center before Bohm lined a single to right, moving Kingery up 90 feet. Harper plated a run on a single, his tenth consecutive plate appearance in which he had reached. Morton retired J.T. Realmuto on a groundout to end his outing. All told, Morton was charged with four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out eight on 93 pitches (64 strikes, 69% strike rate, 22% SwStr%).
Down by three, the Rays began their comeback in the home half of the inning against Velasquez. Joey Wendle reached on an infield hit before Randy Arozarena lined a double to left, moving Wendle to third. After Nate Lowe struck out, Adames singled to center, scoring Wendle and chasing Philadelphia’s starter after 92 pitches. Former Ray Tommy Hunter came on and got Kevin Kiermaier to ground into a fielder’s choice, scoring Arozarena and cutting the lead to just a run.
After Morton, Oliver Drake threw a scoreless sixth, allowing just a walk. In the bottom of the frame, Phillips collected his second hit of the night, punching a homer to straightaway centerfield, his first homer in a Rays uniform, tying the game at four. Phillips was on base in all four plate appearances.
Ryan Thompson pitched the seventh, striking out a pair and setting the stage for one last rally.
Left-hander Adam Morgan took the mound in the bottom of the eighth with the game tied at four. Pinch-hitter Manuel Margot lined to left to start the frame, however, Yoshi Tsutsugo singled to center before Renfroe and Phillips walked to load the bases. Joe Girardi had seen enough of Morgan and called upon Hector Neris. After pinch-hitter, Brandon Lowe popped out, Wendle lined a two-RBI single to right for a 6-4 lead.
That made a winner out of Nick Anderson, who worked the top of the eighth and allowed a two-out walk to Didi Gregorius — just his third walk of the season. Jean Segura hit a pop fly toward the right-field line, and Wendle, playing second, made an incredible over the shoulder catch to prevent a hit and likely a two-out run. John Curtiss followed in the ninth and struck out the side to earn the save.
The New What Next
After closing out Friday night’s contest, Curtiss will open the middle game of the set on Saturday. He will be followed by Ryan Yarbrough (1-4, 3.78 ERA). They’ll be opposed by Zack Wheeler (4-1, 2.67 ERA).
Ryan Yarbrough allowed two runs on five hits and two walks while striking out eight over seven innings on Sunday against the Orioles. Yarbrough gave up two runs in the first inning, yet he settled in and finished his outing with six scoreless frames. Unfortunately, the two runs proved to be the difference in the game as the Orioles’ pitching staff put forth a dominant showing. The left-hander now maintains a 3.78 ERA and 3.33 K/BB over 52-1/3 innings.
Zack Wheeler gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks while striking out seven across 5-2/3 innings Monday against the Nationals. Wheeler got into early trouble, allowing two runs in the first inning followed by one in the sixth. He didn’t receive much run support, which resulted in the right-hander’s first loss of the 2020 season. Wheeler owns a 2.67 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with a 3.75 K/BB across 64 innings. He relies primarily on a 97 mph four-seam fastball, while also mixing in a 97 mph worm-killer sinker with natural sinking action, a hard 90 mph slider, a whiffy 80 mph curveball with sharp downward bite, and a hard 90 mph changeup with a ton of backspin. Key Matchups: Manuel Margot (2-6), Brett Phillips (1-2)
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup below.
Rays 9/26/20 Starting Lineup
- Arozarena DH
- B. Lowe 2B
- Adames SS
- Tsutsugo 3B
- Brosseau 1B
- Kiermaier CF
- Margot LF
- Phillips RF
- Zunino C