Wilson Ramos hit a second inning grand slam, the difference in Friday night’s game, while Alex Cobb battled through six innings, as the Tampa Bay Rays pounded the Orioles, 8-3, in Baltimore. Evan Longoria’s third inning solo shot tied the club record for home runs set last season. Tampa Bay starts the day still hanging on to its slim postseason chances, five games back of the last Wildcard spot with eight games left to play.
After a pair of 1-2-3 frames by Ubaldo Jimenez and Alex Cobb, Logan Morrison started the Rays’ second inning rally when he was hit by an 0-2 pitch. The HBP came just one pitch after Morrison painfully fouled a ball off his ankle. Suffice it to say he was in a lot of pain following that plate appearance, yet he stayed in the game. Steven Souza Jr. and Corey Dickerson went back-to-back with seeing eye singles (to center and right, respectively) loading the bases for the Buffalo. Ramos didn’t waste any time, and belted a first-pitch fastball 439 feet into the left field seats for an early four-run lead.
It was the fourth grand slam for Tampa Bay this season, and the 10th homer for Ramos in 2017.
Yet Baltimore answered in the bottom of the frame against Cobb, loading the bases on a pair of seeing eye singles, and a walk. Austin Hays hit a sacrifice-fly to center to put the Orioles on the board, while their second run crossed the plate on the first of two wild pitches by the right-hander.
Determined not to have their death warrant signed on this fateful evening, the Rays bounced back with two more runs in the top of the third. Evan Longoria homered to start the inning, his 19th of the season and the 216th of Tampa Bay’s 2017 campaign, tying the franchise record set last year. After Morrison and Ramos reached on a couple of base hits sandwiched around a couple of outs, Adeiny Hechavarria drove in the second run of the frame on a base hit to center, chasing Jimenez.
The run support was more than enough for Cobb, who battled throughout his start — only collecting one clean frame in the first. Yet the right-hander made the all important big pitches when he needed to, while also benefitting from his defense. For example, in the third inning, with a runner in scoring position, Dickerson threw out Manny Machado at the plate as he attempted to score on an Adam Jones single, cutting down a potential run.
Scoop and shoot. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/vryrlV5hA4
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 23, 2017
Baltimore got one run closer when Chris Davis hit a solo homer in the fourth, however, Dickerson’s fifth inning RBI double, scoring Souza, again gave Tampa Bay a four-run lead.
Steve Cishek took over for Cobb in the seventh inning and worked around a single, while Tommy Hunter fanned the side in the side on 15 pitches in the following inning.
The Rays scored one last run in the ninth on Lucas Duda’s double to right-center — snapping an 0-20 skid, and scoring Kevin Kiermaier, who was hit by a pitch.
Finally, Brad Boxberger worked around a one-out walk in the ninth inning, fanning the side and putting Baltimore out of its misery.
The New What Next
Jake Odorizzi (9-8, 4.46 ERA, 5.72 FIP) will take the mound for the Rays in the third game of four, pitching opposite of former Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (2-5, 7.29 ERA, 6.57 FIP).
Odorizzi no-hit the Red Sox into the sixth inning on Sunday before he allowed a walk and a two-run homer to Jackie Bradley Jr. The right-hander had a live fastball, coaxing 15 swings-and-misses on his 96 pitches, including 10 on his 61 fastballs. Odorizzi has now allowed just three earned runs across 16-1/3 innings in his last three starts.
Hellickson, in his last start against the New York Yankees on Sunday, was shelled for six runs on four hits (including two home runs) and four walks over just three innings of work. The former Ray has given up three runs or fewer in only four of his nine starts as an Oriole, while performing to a 7.28 ERA/6.16 FIP since the All-Star break. Suffice it to say, the right-hander hasn’t looked nearly as good as he did in his year and a half stint with the Phillies. Key Matchups: Lucas Duda (7-14, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (3-10, HR, 3 RBI)
Rays 9/23/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr. RF
— Adeiny Hechavarria has been a very good acquisition for the Rays. How good? Hechavarria hasn’t committed an error since August 1. Compare that with Orioles SS Tim Beckham, who has committed 9. Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) during that time, Hechavarria ranks first in the league at the position with a 1.000 fielding percentage; Beckham is 25th of the 27 qualifiers at .959. I’d argue that it would be wise for the Rays to offer Hechavarria a long-term deal — or in the very least a contract extension — move Miller off 2B, and allow Willy Adames and Daniel Robertson to platoon the middle infield. Then again the Rays ownership is notoriously cheap, so…