A hot offensive performance saw the Tampa Bay Rays start their road trip with a win against the St. Louis Cardinals, 7-3. Tampa Bay staked Jake Odorizzi with a pair of three-run leads, yet the right-hander was pulled after 3-2/3 innings and 74 pitches. The ‘pen was solid once again though, and covered 5-1/3 scoreless innings. The win was the fourth in the last five games for the Rays, who start the day just three-games out of the last Wildcard spot.
St. Louis took a one-run lead in the first inning on Dexter Fowler’s sacrifice-fly to left-center, which Kevin Kiermaier flagged down instead of Corey Dickerson. The Outlaw has the best arm in the outfield and was the likeliest of the two to make a play at the plate, however, Kiermaier’s throw was offline which allowed the run to score. Tampa Bay was able to answer against Michael Wacha two innings later, batting around in the third.
Souza started the rally with a leadoff homer into the upper deck left-field — just above Big Mac Land — his 28th of the season.
A shot from Souzbot! pic.twitter.com/OnlCSG3z9d
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 26, 2017
Evan Longoria was next, hitting a single to right-center before Logan Morrison doubled to right, quickly putting a pair of runners into scoring position. After Wilson Ramos was caught looking on a pitch that was well off the plate (see below), Corey Dickerson was walked intentionally t0 load the bases.
— Rays Strike Zone (@RaysUmp) August 26, 2017
Adeiny Hechavarria came up big with a two-RBI double down the left-field line, giving the Rays a two-run lead. Odorizzi capped the rally with a two-out infield hit, making it 4-1 in favor of Tampa Bay.
But Odorizzi was unable to bounce back with a shutdown inning, and he loaded the bases on walks with one out in the third. Yadier Molina followed with a sac-fly to center, yet Steven Piscotty was thrown out at third on the play, ending the inning with the lead still intact.
Dickerson got that run back in the fourth, hitting a two out double off Zach Duke, which scored Souza from third. Souzbot initially singled, then swiped both second and third.
Who left the Souzbot running? pic.twitter.com/CenXWSlpSm
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 26, 2017
Souza now has 28 home runs and 13 stolen bases, a combination unmatched by any American League player.
St. Louis refused to go down easily though, and chased Odorizzi in the fourth inning after Kolten Wong homered to right-field. For a third consecutive game the starter last go five innings, forcing the ‘pen to cover the final 16 outs.
As Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) noted, Cash said the walks were the issue, especially three in a four-batter span in the third after the Rays had just taken a 4-1 lead. And there was a mitigating factor of having reliever Steve Cishek warmed up again in the fourth inning and not wanting to burn him for the night, so with the Cardinals pinch-hitting Jose Martinez for starter Michael Wacha, Cash decided he had seen enough.
Odo, I thought he showed some signs of being pretty good but also the walks, it’s tough to avoid that, not being reactive to get somebody else out (there), Cash said. We got him a lead and then I felt it was best to keep it that way.
Odorizzi, who was pitching in front of more than 200 friends and relatives that made the 45 minute trek from his hometown, was understandably less than enthusiastic about Cash’s decision:
It was the manager’s decision, and that’s it. It’s not my choice.
Regardless of his feelings on the matter though, the decision was made — one which boded in the Rays favor.
Steve Cishek, working in his third straight game, bounced back from a tough outing on Thursday to pick up an inning ending strikeout, keeping the Rays ahead by a pair. Sergio Romo followed in the fifth and sixth, collecting two perfect innings.
Romo has been excellent since coming over from Los Angeles prior to the deadline. In August alone, the right-hander has fired off 15-1/3 innings of three run baseball, while performing to a 1.17 ERA/3.13 FIP/0.52 WHIP against 52 total batters faced. It’s no wonder he was credited with last night’s win.
Dan Jennings took over in the seventh, and got the first two outs of the frame quickly and efficiently on four pitches. But after he allowed a couple of two-out singles, which forced Cash’s hand, Tommy Hunter took the mound and struck out Piscotty to end the seventh.
Tommy Two-Towels “rings ’em up and rings ’em out.” — @RaysRadio
— X-Rays Spex (@XRaysSpex) August 26, 2017
Tommy Two-Towels followed with a perfect seven-pitch 1–2–3 eighth.
Tampa Bay tacked on a pair of crucial insurance runs in the ninth when Kiermaier singled to left with two outs. Dickerson leadoff the inning with a 1-1 double to right off Brett Cecil, and Hechavarria laid down a beautiful bunt single which allowed Dickerson to advance to third. Hechavarria stole second before Kiermaier’s base hit.
Alex Colome took over in the ninth and hurled a 14 pitch, 1-2-3 inning to close out the game, punctuated with a swinging strikeout of Randal Grichuk.
All told, the Rays collected 16 hits — four from Dickerson, and three from Hechavarria.
The New What Next
Blake Snell (2-6, 4.42 ERA, 4.59 FIP) will get the start in the second game of the series, pitching opposite of right-hander Mike Leake (7-12, 4.16 ERA).
The impetus will be on Snell to pitch deeply into the ball game.
We’ve got a lot of confidence, we keep going to them, Cash said. Saying that, we need a couple of big starts now, definitely by Blake (Snell) going into tomorrow, giving us some length.
Snell is coming off his best start of the season after picking up the win on Sunday. The southpaw allowed a single in the second and a single in the seventh en route to seven shutout innings and his second win of the season. Snell’s 4.42 ERA and 1.44 WHIP still leave a lot to be desired, however, he appears to be figuring things out, and could take his quality stuff to another level to close out the season.
Rays 8/26/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr RF