Brad Miller hit his 19th homer at home, tying Mike Napoli and Mark Trumbo for the AL most. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

The Tampa Bay Rays broke the game open with a four-run seventh inning on Saturday, en route to an 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers. Tampa Bay has split the first two games of the series against the number one team in the American League West, and has won five of six.

Source: FanGraphs

Tampa Bay built an early two-run lead against starter A.J. Griffin. In the first inning, Corey Dickerson hit a one-out, ground-rule double up the right field line, then came around to score on Evan Longoria’s single to left-center. With two outs in the second, Luke Maile blasted a solo homer to deep left field, his first big league home run.

As it turns, a fan named Luke caught Maile’s homer. In the end, the pair of “Lukes” traded the home run ball for a game used bat.

The Rangers struck back in the fourth inning after Jake Odorizzi left a 1-2 hanger up in the zone to Rougned Odor, who knocked it out to left field.

Odorizzi received some help from his defense in the sixth inning, helping to maintain what was then a one-run lead. With two outs and Adrian Beltre at first, Jonathan Lucroy hit a liner to right-center that Steven Souza Jr. made a diving attempt on. The ball deflected off his glove, but toward Mikie Mahtook, who fired a strike to the cutoff man, Tim Beckham. T-Bex made a perfect relay throw to Maile at the plate, cutting down Beltre — who also never even touched the plate on his slide. And while the Rangers third baseman was originally ruled safe, the call was overturned upon replay, keeping Tampa Bay up by a run.

Thankfully Longoria was able to pad the Rays lead in the bottom of the sixth when he blasted his 28th homer of the season to left, also setting the stage for the seventh inning outburst.

Odorizzi departed the game before the seventh inning after hurling six innings of 6 H/1 R/1 BB/4 K baseball on 101 pitches (65 strikes), giving way to Xavier Cedeno. The X-Man, as Orestes Destrade calls him, got through a scoreless frame, stranding Elvis Andrus on third to maintain the lead.

The good guys immediately rallied in the bottom of the frame, and it all started with Beckham’s leadoff triple to the right-center gap against reliever Keone Kela. Souza followed with an RBI single to right-center, making it a 4-1 contest. Maile then laid down a beautiful bunt, and Mitch Moreland’s indecision and subsequent throw to second (in an attempt to nab Souza) was late, putting two on with nobody out. Kela got the next two batters including Mahtook, who made a perplexing decision which Hatfield (DRaysBay) wrote about in his game recap:

What happened next still has me completely perplexed. With two on and no outs, Mikie Mahtook looked to make it back to back sacrifice bunts. He showed bunt very early every pitch, in the middle of Kela’s windup, erasing any doubt. Eventually Mikie ended up with two strikes on him, clearly ending the bunt show. Only it didn’t end the bunt show. Mikie continued to show bunt early, for several pitches with two strikes. He eventually fouled one off, resulting in a foul bunt strikeout and walking back to the dugout to a chorus of boos. I mean… what on earth was happening there? Did Mikie take it upon himself to continue the bunt attempt with two strikes pitch after pitch? Or was this Kevin Cash’s genius idea? Either way, I learned not to do that when I was about eight years old. I’m not a fan of the sac bunt, period, and I’m even less of a fan of it when it happens at such a silly and ill-advised time.

After the failed bunt attempt, Longoria walked to load the bases just before Miller cleared them on a three-run double into the right-field corner.

Tampa Bay added another run in the eighth inning when Beckham hit his second triple of the night into right-center, and scored on an bloop double to right by Souza.

Texas outfielder Nomar Mazara homered for the final run of the game against Kevin Jepsen with two outs in the ninth. The homer was reviewed, as it appeared a fan reached over the railing to make the catch, however, the call was upheld.

All in all, Tampa Bay collected 12 hits: three from Matt “Baby Zobrist” Duffy, and two apiece from Longoria, Souza and Beckham.

The New What Next

LHP Drew Smyly (5-11, 4.85 ERA) will get the start opposite of fellow Martin Perez (8-8, 4.09 ERA) in the series finale. Smyly is coming off strong outing against the Padres, allowing just one hit over seven-plus innings. He’s now made five consecutive starts in which he’s allowed two runs or fewer over six-plus innings. Smyly is 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA in those starts, and 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA in 10 games against the Rangers. Perez is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA over his past four starts, and has induced a big league most 33 ground-ball double plays. He’s also held lefties to .170 average and a .516 OPS. Perez, however, is 0-1 with a 3.86 in three games versus Tampa Bay. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 8/21/16 Starting Lineup

Forsythe DH
Duffy SS
Longoria 3B
Miller 1B
Beckham 2B
Souza RF
Dickerson LF
Mahtook CF
Wilson C
Smyly LHP


— The Rays enter the day with a 62-59 BaseRuns record and 59-62 Pythagorean Expectation. Compare that to the Yankees and Rangers, who enter the day with a 58-64 and 61-63 BaseRuns record (respectively). I’d argue the Rays are at least as good as those two ball clubs.

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