The Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff suppressed the mighty Yankees on Tuesday night as the team survived yet another extra-inning contest, winning 2-1 thanks to Ji-Man Choi’s 12th inning long ball. With the win, Tampa Bay starts the day 30 games over .500 for the first time since 2010, a half-game behind Oakland for the top Wildcard spot, and with a half-game lead over Cleveland for the final AL Wildcard spot.
With four games left to play, the Rays have a 70.9% chances of a postseason berth according to FanGraphs. Baseball Prospectus gives them a 70.4% chance.
Yonny Chirinos got the ballgame rolling with his first start since August 4th. Chirinos allowed one run on one hit — a first-pitch homer to Cameron Maybin to leadoff the third inning — across three frames on just 30 pitches (18 strikes, 60% strike rate). From there, the rest of the pitching staff went to work…although it wasn’t easy.
Andrew Kittredge took over in the fourth and threw a scoreless inning, striking out a pair while allowing an infield hit. Yet things got hairy in the fifth inning when Brendan McKay had to work around a pair of singles.
Meanwhile, in the bottom of the frame, after Daniel Robertson and Willy Adames were sent back to the dugout in quick order, Kevin Kiermaier — mired in a 1-for-27 slump — worked a 3-2 count before he crushed a solo home run over the right-field wall, tying the game at one apiece.
It was Kiermaier’s 14th homer of the season.
McKay took the mound again in the sixth inning and fell behind Aaron Judge before he struck him out on a 3-2 fastball. Yet, the left-hander walked Giancarlo Stanton after coaxing a fly-ball out from Gleyber Torres, ending his outing. Kevin Cash called upon Diego Castillo, who — after hitting Gio Urshela with a 94 mph sinker — got Didi Gregorius to line out to right. Castillo also collected a perfect seventh.
In the eighth, with the top of the order looming, Emilio Pagan took the mound and worked around a leadoff single for a scoreless inning of work, punctuated by a punch-out of Stanton on a 97 mph fastball to end the frame.
Colin Poche took over in the ninth for a 1-2-3 inning, including a five-pitch strikeout of Cameron Maybin. Oliver Drake and Chaz Roe combined for a perfect tenth, while Roe worked around a hit in the eleventh, notching three strikeouts along the way.
Things got interesting in the top of the 12th with winning pitcher Pete Fairbanks on the mound. Fairbanks got the first two outs on a pair of line drives to Matt Duffy and Mike Brosseau (respectively) before pinch-hitter Mike Ford hit a bloop double in shallow left that fell in between Duffy and Tommy Pham. The right-hander recovered and struck out Brett Gardner to end the threat.
The Rays couldn’t capitalize on two good scoring opportunities, which ultimately led to their extra-inning walk-off.
Jordan Montgomery, who opened for New York, got out of a second and third two-out situation in the first inning, striking out Ji-Man Choi.
Then in the sixth, after the Yankees stranded a pair of runners on base, the Rays loaded the bases on three walks (one by Tyler Lyons, two by Luis Cessa). However, Cessa got pinch hitter Nate Lowe to ground out to second on a 3-1 pitch to end the threat. After that, Tampa Bay didn’t have another base runner until the 12th.
In the bottom of the 12th, Choi worked a 2-2 count before he hit his second homer in as many days.
It was Choi’s 18th homer of the season and ended a string of plate appearances where New York had retired 16 consecutive batters. Tampa Bay now has won eight consecutive extra-inning ballgames after starting the season 3-7.
The New What Next
The Rays will play their final regular-season home game of the 2019 campaign on Wednesday. Charlie Morton (15-6, 3.15 ERA) will get the start for Tampa Bay, pitching opposite of another bullpen day for New York, which might (or might not) include Masahiro Tanaka.
Charlie Morton was sharp over the first six frames, allowing just three hits — two on the infield — and a walk over that stretch while striking out six. However, he surrendered a two-run homer to Mitch Moreland in the seventh inning before exiting the contest. Even so, Morton is 2-0 over his last four turns, allowing three runs or fewer in each outing. The right-hander owns a 3.15 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP, with a 4.3 K/BB across 188-2/3 innings this season. Morton is 1-1 with a 5.28 ERA in three starts (15-1/3 innings) against New York in 2019, but 7-3 with a 2.75 ERA in 16 starts (98-1/3 innings) at Tropicana Field this season.
Masahiro Tanaka gave up one earned run on four hits over seven innings against the Angels on Thursday, striking out six and walking none. Tanaka had given up eight runs over nine innings in two previous outings, but he bounced back with a sharp effort against Anaheim, allowing him to cruise to his 11th win of the season. Even so, the right-hander has had an erratic campaign overall, with a 4.47 ERA across 179 innings on the season. Be that as it may, Tanaka has been deadly against the Rays this season, posting a 2-0 record with a 1.59 ERA over four starts, and a 1-0 record with a 3.28 ERA in three starts at the Trop (13-1/3 innings of work). Key Matchups: Michael Brosseau (2-3, 2 2B), Ji-Man Choi (4-14, 2 2B, BB), Guillermo Heredia (1-4), Kevin Kiermaier (9-34, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB), Nate Lowe (1-3, HR, RBI), Austin Meadows (3-11, HR, RBI, 2 BB), Eric Sogard (3-8, 2B, HR, RBI), Joey Wendle (3-11, 2B, 2 RBI), Mike Zunino (6-21, 2 2B, 2 HR, 2 RBI, BB)
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup and Noteworthiness are below.
Rays 9/25/19 Starting Lineup
- Wendle 2B
- Meadows LF
- d’Arnaud C
- Choi 1B
- Garcia RF
- B. Lowe DH
- Duffy 3B
- Kiermaier CF
- Adames SS