The Tampa Bay Rays opened the crucial series with Minnesota in dramatic fashion Monday night, pummeling the Twins — both literally and figuratively — 11-4. Tampa Bay ended the night one-game under .500 and three-games back of the Twins in the Wildcard race, with 23 games left to play.
Tampa Bay found itself with an early scoring opportunity in the first inning after Kevin Kiermaier lashed a double to left. He inevitably made his way to third base with none out on a passed ball by Jose Berrios. However, the Twins’ right-hander put down the next three batters (Lucas Duda, Evan Longoria, and Logan Morrison) in order on a pair of strikeouts and a pop-out. It looked like the start of another one of those games by the Rays, thanks to a presumed listless offense.
Adding insult to injury, the Twins took a 1-0 lead against Alex Cobb in the top of the second inning, after Byron Buxton singled to right field then promptly swiped second — his 20th stolen base in a row without being nabbed. He later scored on Max Kepler’s base hit to right. Yet from there Cobb went to work.
Alex put down 12 of the next 13 batters on six strikeouts, a double play, and five ground ball outs — keeping the Rays in the ball game until they could break things open in the sixth inning.
Down by a run in the second, the Rays tied the game on Corey Dickerson’s line drive homer to centerfield.
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB_) September 4, 2017
It was Dickerson’s 26th homer of the season, snapping an 0-for-13 skid at the plate.
Tampa Bay played aggressive ball in the third inning, and consequently took a one-run lead. After Kiermaier singled to right with one out, he stole his way into second base before he came home on Longoria’s bloop single to right — Longo’s 74th RBI of the season.
The Rays remained quiet for the next three innings while Cobb kept the Twins in check until the sixth, when he was pulled after two outs with Joe Mauer at third. Dan Jennings got the final out of the frame on one pitch, getting Eddie Rosario to groundout to second to end the threat.
The red hot Morrison helped the Rays break the game open in the bottom of the inning with a single to center off Berrios. LoMo moved up to second when Souza worked a full count walk, before Dickerson drove him home on a double to right-center, extending the lead to a pair. With the game in the balance, Paul Molitor pulled Berrios in favor of Ryan Pressly.
Pressly fanned Wilson Ramos for the first out of the inning before Brad Miller was walked intentionally, loading the bases. Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a liner to center, while Souza tagged up from third and scored on Byron Buxton’s throw home.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 5, 2017
Souza, playing the part of clock cleaner, plowed through Matt Garver, allowing him to safely cross the plate. He, however, left the game with neck/back soreness following the collision, and is listed as day-to-day.
All the baserunners moved up 90 feet, and Kiermaier singled to center off southpaw Buddy Boshers scoring two runs, pushing the lead to five runs, and capping the breakout rally. The surge assured that Cobb — who battled his way through 5-2/3 innings on three hits and two walks — was on the winning side of the ledger. The right-hander struck out seven.
Steve Cishek entered the game and threw a scoreless, and efficient, seventh inning on 11 pitches.
Then at the bottom of the inning, Morrison pushed the lead to 7-1 on an opposite field homer off John Curtiss.
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB_) September 5, 2017
It was Morrison’s 36th homer this year, and seventh in eight games.
With a sizable lead in tow, Andrew Kittredge took over in the eighth. Brian Dozier welcomed the hurler rather rudely with a two-run homer, however, Tampa Bay countered with four-runs in the bottom of the inning when Trevor Plouffe and Morrison each drove in runs on singles, while Longoria drove in a pair on a base hit to center.
Finally, Ryne Stanek allowed a run in the ninth inning, but struck out the side to end the game.
The New What Next
Jake Odorizzi (7-7, 4.85 ERA, 5.97 FIP) will take the mound in the second game of the series on Tuesday, pitching opposite of Bartolo Colon (4-2, 4.09 ERA, 5.08 FIP).
Odorizzi allowed three runs over five innings while notching a win against over KC in his last start. He, however, has struggled to pitch deeply into games as of late, tossing at least six innings in just one of his last six starts. On the bright side, all of the Royals’ runs came on one swing — a three-run homer by Whit Merrifield in the third inning. More concerning though, his the lack of command, paired with the inability to keep the ball in the park, has plagued Odorizzi this season. In his last 10 outings, the right-hander has given up 34 runs in 48 innings — good for a 6.38 ERA.
Colon gave up three runs over six innings in a no-decision against Chicago his last time out. He was solid over the month of August, performing to a 3.40 ERA over six starts, yet he wasn’t nearly as good over the first half of the season, performing to a 8.14 ERA/5.07 FIP over 63 innings of work. Colon is 9-6 with a 4.07 ERA in 24 career starts against the Rays. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (5-15, 2B, 3B, RBI, 2 BB), Corey Dickerson (3-3, 3B, RBI), Lucas Duda (1-4), Adeiny Hechavarria (4-13, 3 2B, RBI), Evan Longoria (5-14, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Mallex Smith (1-4)
Rays 9/5/17 Starting Lineup
— The Rays received good news on the status of Chris Archer, who was pulled from Saturday’s contest due to right lateral forearm tightness after throwing just eight pitches. Archer’s exam with team doctors showed no structural damage to his right arm. He will play catch tomorrow afternoon then be reevaluated afterward.
— Jason Collette (The Process Report) made a good point: One thing that stands out with Kiermaier since his return, he has done a good job working up the middle and the other way, while not pulling the ball as frequently.