With the game tied late at four runs apiece, Jake Bauers hit a go-ahead three-run home run to right off Jeurys Familia, as the Tampa Bay Rays evened the series against the Oakland Athletics with a 7-5 victory Saturday night.
The Rays needed a win in order to stay relevant, and that’s exactly what they got. As Orestes Destrade once said of the improbable run by the 2011 Rays, “Probable no, possible yes” — a mantra we at X-Rays Spex have staked ourselves to until the tragic number, etc tells us otherwise.
It would appear that Kevin Cash feels the same, although he also noted an added benefit of playing in games that matter, saying:
We want to be playing baseball games in these types of series for many years to come. We have a bunch of guys here who are gonna be here for many years to come and it’s a core group. Any lesson, any win, any tough loss that they can pull something positive from it will benefit us in the long run.
Tampa Bay took leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in the second and sixth innings, yet Oakland battled back to tie each time.
Familia entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and walked both Joey Wendle and Brandon Lowe to set up Bauers for the dramatic three-run, go-ahead blast — his 11th homer of the season.
Familia’s sequence of pitches which set up the homer was questionable at best, starting Bauers off with two off-speed pitches which had the rookie expanding his zone early as he got down in the count 0-2. Yet Familia tried to sneak a thigh-high 96 mph fastball over the inner third of the plate, past Bauers, and well … the rest is history.
It feels pretty damn good, excuse my language, Bauers said. It’s been a pretty long month for me personally, to contribute to a win like that and let emotions out in a positive way, it feels pretty good. … I think (the bat flip) might have felt better. It’s nothing to do with disrespect or showing people up, it’s just purely letting out a lot of pent up emotions out. Hitting a game-winning home run is a big thing, whether you’re 100-for-100 or 0-for-100. … The homer felt great; the bat flip felt better.
Brandon Lowe initially put the Rays ahead, 2-0, with a two-run homer off of Dean Kiekehefer, his fifth of the season.
Yet Oakland ground away at Yonny Chirinos, cutting the lead to 2-1 on a Jed Lowrie RBI single in the third, and tying the game on a Matt Olson solo homer in the sixth. Chirinos, however, settled down in the fourth inning and, at one point, retired 10 in a row and kept Tampa Bay in it.
The Rays responded in the bottom of the sixth when Wendle drew a leadoff walk and scored on Kevin Kiermaier’s RBI triple into the right-field corner.
Bauers followed with a sac-fly to right, scoring Kiermaier and putting the Rays up by two. Nevertheless, Oakland bounced right back in the top of the seventh to even the score again. Mark Canha doubled off reliever Adam Kolarek to score Marcus Semien and cut the lead to one. Canha later scored from third on a passed ball with two outs.
Oakland threatened once more in the top of the eighth inning, loading the bases with one out against Vidal Nuno, yet the southpaw caught Marcus Semien looking at strike three, and Andrew Kittredge coaxed a ground out from Canha to end the threat.
Even though Sergio Romo allowed a solo homer to Chapman in the ninth, he got the final three outs of the ballgame to preserve the victory.
The New What Next
The Rays will look for the series win on Sunday afternoon with Diego Castillo (3-2, 3.31 ERA) taking the mound as the opener. Jalen Beeks (4-1, 5.57 ERA) should see some mound time as well. There is also the possibility that Tyler Glasnow could pitch on regular rest. They’ll be opposed by Mike Fiers (12-6, 3.29 ERA).
Beeks boasted neither fastball command or control Monday night. After escaping a pair of threatening situations in his first two innings of work, Francisco Lindor hit a one-out single to right, and Michael Brantley doubled to right-center. Jose Ramirez followed by looping a ball into shallow centerfield that fell beyond Brandon Lowe and in front of Smith for a double, chasing Beeks after 2-1/3 innings (51 pitches, 33 strikes, 65% strike rate, 8/13 first-pitch strikes) and making it 4-2. That made for the third consecutive short outing by the right-hander after he built up his arm back in August.
Fiers allowed one run on four hits and one walk while striking out seven in six innings on Tuesday. He picked up the win. His remarkable run since getting traded to Oakland continued, as the right-handed Fiers is now 5-0 with 42 strikeouts across 39.2 innings (seven starts) in an Athletics uniform. He has won six straight decisions overall, and only needed 84 pitches (56 strikes, 66% strike rate, 18/22 first-pitch strikes) to cruise to this quality start. Fiers is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA in four starts against the Rays, and 1-1 with a 7.31 ERA in three career starts at Tropicana Field. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (1-3, 2B), Matt Duffy (2-7), Mallex Smith (1-3), Jesus Sucre (2-5)
Rays 9/16/18 Starting Lineup
You can read about the series in our preview.
— Ahhh, September baseball games that matter… Tampa Bay has used 16 pitchers over the past 18 innings, allowing seven runs over that stretch while striking out 20.
— In “No shit, Marc Topkin” news, on Sunday the Rays’ beat writer (for the Tampa Bay Times, one of the area’s biggest cheerleaders for the fleecing of taxpayers out of almost a billion dollars) iterated something that both Noah Pransky (WTSP News) and X-Rays Spex discussed months ago, when news of the team’s new TV deal with SunSports initially leaked to the public.
As Topkin writes:
As quiet as it’s been about the rich new TV deal that’s long been under discussion, might the Rays might feel getting it done — and news leaking of how much they’re getting — could hurt their negotiating position over their share of costs for the new stadium?
Back toward the start of the season we wrote:
It has been widely speculated that a new TV contract could be a significant step toward the team being able to afford a new stadium, while also giving the Rays an opportunity to increase the payroll. However, there is reason to pump the brakes on that point of view.
As Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium, WTSP News) writes, they always knew that money was coming. That is, while the Rays will have a ton of new revenue pouring in, it’s plausible that the “new” money will have been budgeted already.
“Its likely not “new” revenue that the team is all of a sudden going to commit to payroll or a new stadium; they are revenues the team was already budgeting.”
Pransky also noted (Twitter link) that the TV deal probably will not change much on the stadium front. The Rays did not want the financial numbers to go public for a reason: it would reduce the team’s leverage by making the case for public subsidies even harder.
It’s easy for payroll hawks and stadium proponents — on either side of the bay — to get excited about the news, although it’s probably wiser to be cautiously optimistic.
If anything, Topkin’s 46-word prognosis lends an air of legitimate media credibility to what we, and others, have been saying (even if it was months after the fact).