The Tampa Bay Rays took an early lead against Gerrit Cole for the second time this month, yet this time the ‘pen held on to preserve a 3-2 win over the Houston Astros. At the official mid-point of the season, and in spite of the odds, the Rays have a 40-41 record.
Tampa Bay scored all three of their runs in an awkward fourth inning. Daniel Robertson led off the frame with an infield single to third before Joey Wendle grounded a run-and-hit single into left-center, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Adieny Hechavarria was next, and drove a high fly ball to deep centerfield which Jake Marisnick dropped after crashing into the wall, allowing Hechavarria to reach base safely as Robertson crossed the plate the game’s first run. Two batters later — and after a beautiful sac bunt by Mallex Smith which allowed both runners to move into scoring position — both Wendle and Hechavarria crossed the plate when first baseman AJ Reed couldn’t handle a low throw from Marwin Gonzalez on a grounder hit by Kevin Kiermaier.
On the other side of the plate, Wilmer Font allowed just one hit over five-plus innings of work, walking two and and fanning three. Font was impressive over the front five innings, silencing Houston’s very productive lineup by missing barrels and coaxing a ton of weak contact. The right-hander was on cruise control until the sixth, when he suffered a right lat strain. After walking Jake Marisnick on four pitches, and falling behind Alex Bregman 3-1, Font called for athletic trainer Mike Sandoval and Kevin Cash; he appeared to tweak something. More on the injury below.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 30, 2018
Diego Castillo entered the game in relief and allowed a two-run homerun two pitches later, on a fastball that leaked back over the heart of the plate.
— Houston Astros (@astros) June 30, 2018
But Castillo retired the next six Astros, punctuating the last two at-bats with a pair of strikeouts.
Chaz Roe worked a perfect eighth, and Sergio Romo retired the first two batters of the ninth before Evan Gattis lined a 2-2 slider into left field, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate.
Cash called upon Jose Alvarado to face Gonzalez, forcing the infielder to hit from the right side. With the game in the balance, Gonzalez grounded out on the first pitch to end the game.
Despite the injury, Font was pleased with his performance, crediting the Rays coaching staff with helping him feel comfortable in a Rays uniform. The right-hander will be re-evaluated on Saturday and hopes to miss only 1-1/2 weeks.
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) June 30, 2018
Cash was more pessimistic (and/or realistic) though, saying Font “in all likelihood will miss significant time.” When asked what Font’s absence means for the Rays’ pitching plans, Cash laughed, “More openers and bullpen days, yippee.” Ultimately though Font was placed on the 10-day DL (right lat strain), and RHP Hunter Wood has been recalled from Triple-A Durham.
The New What Next
The Rays have another chance to get to the .500 mark Saturday against the reigning World series champs. Ryne Stanek (1-1, 1.85 ERA) will serve as the opener for Tampa Bay with Matt Andriese (1-3, 4.02 ERA) and Vidal Nuno (1-0, 1.56 ERA) available to throw multiple innings. They’ll be opposed by Justin Verlander (9-3, 1.82).
Matt Andriese gave up three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out one in the Rays’ bullpen day on Sunday. His ERA jumped from 3.68 to 4.02 after the outing. Andriese followed 16 consecutive appearances in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer, with two straight starts in which he gave up three runs in each — including a 2-2/3 inning, three run start against the Astros on June 18.
Justin Verlander allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks with six punch outs over 6-2/3 innings of a loss against the Blue Jays on Monday. Home runs have been an issue for Verlander lately, as he has allowed six homers in his past four starts after giving up just five over his first 13 outings. The result was the first time all season that Verlander allowed more than three runs, pushing his ERA all the way up to 1.82. The right-hander gave up a second inning solo shot to CJ Cron in a 1-2 loss to the Rays on June 19, but otherwise struck out 10. Verlander is 5-2 with a 2.53 ERA in eight career starts at Tropicana Field. Key Matchups: Matt Duffy (1-3), Wilson Ramos (1-3), Joey Wendle (2-3, 2B)
You can read about the series in our preview.
Rays 6/30/18 Starting Lineup
— Because it bears mentioning: