A five-run, two-out rally and a solid outing by Yonny Chirinos in his first start of the season helped propel the Tampa Bay Rays to their fourth consecutive win on Tuesday, 5-2 over Atlanta. The Rays finished their first homestand of the season with four wins and one loss, and a +14 run differential overall and versus Atlanta.
Chirinos missed two weeks of Summer Camp due to COVID-19, and because of it, questions surrounded the right-hander as he took the mound … questions regarding his pitch count, command and control of his stuff, and stamina. And though he threw just one first-pitch strike to the first nine batters (7-of-17 overall), Chirinos was able to maintain his composure and turn in a fairly effective outing, allowing one unearned run on four hits and two walks while striking out four on 68 pitches (41 strikes, 60% strike rate).
It doesn’t hurt that he was helped by double plays in each of the first two scoreless frames, including a strike ’em out, throw ’em out twin killing in the first.
Yet, Chirinos ran into trouble in the third inning when Ender Inciarte reached on Ji-Man Choi’s error, then went to third on Alex Jackson’s double to left, his first big-league hit. Ronald Acuña Jr. earned a bases loading free pass before Chirinos was able to strike out both Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman. Still, Marcell Ozuna drove in the game’s first run on a base hit to left, although Matt Adams popped out to cap the rally at just one run. Chirinos threw 31 pitches in the frame but finished his outing with a clean eight-pitch fourth.
Meanwhile, the Rays answered Atlanta in the bottom of the third to the tune of five runs. Down by a run, Tampa Bay rallied against Kyle Wright who previously cruised through the first two innings. …And they did so with two outs.
Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Lowe, and Yandy Diaz each drew free passes to load the bases for Yoshi Tsutsugo, who plated a pair of runs on a single to right-center, pushing Tampa Bay in front.
Then José Martínez kept the line moving with a bloop single to left, increasing the lead to two.
Joey Wendle followed with a hard-hit single through the right side, chasing Wright and putting the Rays up 4-1.
Finally, Josh Tomlin, who entered in relief, uncorked a 1-1 wild pitch which allowed Martínez to score from third, capping the rally.
I think the momentum was started with the way we got through the top of the third. That’s kind of the ballgame.— Kevin Cash
With Chirinos out of the game, Pete Fairbanks went to work in the fifth, pitching around a single by Jackson, by fanning Acuña Jr., Albies, and Freeman.
Ryan Thompson was next. While he was able to post a perfect sixth, the following inning was not nearly as kind to the righty. Johan Camargo walked on a 3-2 pitch before Inciarte grounded a ball wide of first. Choi dived and scooped the grounder, but jammed his shoulder as he hit the ground — consequently throwing the ball into left-field and putting runners at first at second. Choi eventually left the game due to shoulder soreness and is listed as day-to-day.
I don’t think so. We’ll see and check on him. He jammed his shoulder on that funky play when he went down and made a nice play, but threw it a little wide of Joey. When he hit the turf, (the shoulder) kind of jammed.— Kevin Cash, on the seriousness of Choi’s injury
Jackson grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, moving a runner into third, yet Acuña Jr. worked a two-out walk, necessitating a pitching change. Nick Anderson entered the game and allowed an RBI single to right off the bat Albies, but struck out Freeman to limit the damage and keep the Rays up by three. That was as close as Atlanta would get.
Chaz Roe had a perfect eighth complete with a few frisbee sliders…
… while Oliver Drake (and his mustache) did the same in the ninth for his second save of the season.
The New What Next
Tampa Bay and Atlanta will continue the home-and-away series in Cobb County on Wednesday. Charlie Morton (0-1, 13.50 ERA) will take the mound, pitching opposite of Mike Soroka (0-0, 0.00 ERA).
Charlie Morton started his last outing strong, pounding the zone and throwing 22 of his first 28 pitches for strikes across three scoreless frames. Yet
Toronto Buffalo was able to breakthrough in the fourth inning when things unraveled for the right-hander.
Cavan Biggio led things off with a first-pitch drag bunt single wide of first, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. followed with a base hit to the right of second on the very next pitch, putting a runner in scoring position with none out. Travis Shaw worked the count full before he walked on a borderline full-count curveball that appeared to be on the black to everyone by Joe West, the home plate umpire. With the bases loaded, Randall Grichuk lined an RBI single to left to put the Jays up by one. Rowdy Tellez and Teoscar Hernandez followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies to center and left, capping the rally.
Toronto Buffalo chased Morton in the top of the fifth inning and consequently the game out of reach. Danny Jansen and Scott Stapp lookalike, Bo Bichette, hit back-to-back base hits to right-field and right-center (respectively) to put two on and none out. Morton appeared to be laboring through his at-bat against Biggio and quickly fell behind 3-1. He attempted to get back into the count, yet the right-hander left a mistake fastball over the plate which Biggio pounced on — lining a homer into the right-field seats and putting the Blue Jays up by five. Morton is 3-2 with a 3.52 ERA in six career starts against his former team.
Mike Soroka tossed six scoreless innings in Friday’s loss to the Mets although he didn’t factor into the decision. The right-hander allowed four hits and no walks while striking out three. Soroka posted a 2.68 ERA and a 6.76 K/BB across 174-2/3 innings in 2019. He relies primarily on a 93 mph four-seam fastball with some natural sinking action, an 82 mph slider, and a 91 mph sinker with slight arm-side run and has some natural sinking action, while also mixing in a whiffy 81 mph changeup with a lot of backspin and slight arm-side fade. Soroka has never faced the Rays.
You can read about the series in our preview, while tonight’s starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.
Rays 7/29/20 Starting Lineup
- B. Lowe 2B
- Wendle 3B
- Diaz 1B
- Tsutsugo DH
- Margot LF
- Kiermaier CF
- Renfroe RF
- Adames SS
- Zunino C
— The Rays added 26 swinging strikes on Tuesday, pushing the team total to 113.
I think we have a really good staff. I think we have a really good team, and the goal for us is to win every game.— Yonny Chirinos
— 16 of Tampa Bay’s 33 runs over the homestand came with two outs, including all five runs on Tuesday.
— After going 5-for-28 with runners in scoring position (.179 BA) against
Toronto Buffalo, the Rays have gone 7-for-12 wRISP (.583 BA) in the last two games against Atlanta.
— In the words of Juan Toribio (MLB.com), “The Rays’ offense also entered Tuesday’s game with an average exit velocity of 88.7 mph, the fourth highest in the AL. Tampa Bay’s offense is averaging 6.6 runs per game — despite being without All-Star outfielder Austin Meadows.”
— Austin Meadows, who recently returned from the Injured List, hit in the batting cages of the team’s Port Charlotte complex, threw to 120 feet, did defensive drills, and took four at-bats in a simulated game on Tuesday. Additionally, Randy Arozarena has been cleared to return to baseball activity and will begin a rehab assignment at the alternate training site. Both outfielders had been sidelined with COVID-19.