Nick Ciuffo, Kevin Kiermaier, Tommy Pham and Ji-Man Choi teamed up to hit four home runs on Friday as the Tampa Bay Rays cruised to a 14-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles, who lost for the 100th time this season. 14 runs were more than enough for Blake Snell, who picked up his 18th win of the season. and the Rays.
The Rays have now won nine consecutive home games (42-24 at home overall), and are 30-8 in their last 38 games at Tropicana Field. The nine straight home wins are three shy of a franchise record.
Snell threw five innings of scoreless ball on 90 pitches but was chased in the sixth after giving up a one-out infield hit to Cedric Mullins, then a two-run homer to Joey Rickard. It was Rickard’s fourth homer against Tampa Bay this season, giving him 17 of his 23 total runs batted in against the Rays. All told, Snell struck fanned nine and allowed five hits across 5-1/3 innings and 104 pitches (72 strikes, 69% strike rate, 15/20 first-pitch strikes).
I felt like I was around the zone, for the most part, Snell said. The offense did very well. Gave me a quick lead. All credit goes to them.
Meanwhile, the Rays took the lead for good in the second inning against the right-hander Dylan Bundy. With two outs, Willy Adames lined a single to left-field before Jake Bauers walked. Ciuffo, batting for the first time at the Trop, homered to right, putting Tampa Bay up by three with one swing of the bat.
An inning later, Ji-Man Choi and Tommy Pham walked with one out. Yet Joey Wendle ground into an almost double play which would have ended the threat. He, however, beat out the throw to first, keeping the frame alive. Kiermaier, who reached in the first inning on a bunt single, homered off the fair pole in right, his seventh, pushing the lead to 6-0.
Tampa Bay also scored in the fifth inning on a solo homer to dead center by Pham off relief pitcher Sean Gilmartin.
Then in the sixth inning, Bauers walked before Ciuffo singled to center to put two on with one out. After Mallex Smith grounded into a fielder’s choice at third, and Matt Duffy walked, Choi crushed a 438-foot grand slam to right-field off Ryan Meisinger. Tampa Bay scored their first 11 runs via the longball.
The Rays tacked on three more runs in the seventh inning on a bases-loaded wild pitch, a Ciuffo sacrifice-fly, and an infield hit off the bat of Smith.
After Snell departed one out in the sixth inning, Jaime Schultz pitched 1-2/3 scoreless innings, while Andrew Kittredge and Hunter Wood threw an inning apiece. The hurlers combined for 15 strikeouts and didn’t walk a batter.
The New What Next
The Rays have an opportunity to win both the current and season series against the Orioles on Saturday night. Diego Castillo (3-2, 3.48 ERA) will open for the Rays, with Ryan Yarbrough (13-5, 3.68 ERA) expected to work the bulk of the innings. They’ll be opposed by David Hess (3-9, 5.27 ERA).
Castillo has opened four times previously and has allowed runs in only one of those appearances. The flame-throwing right-hander has not walked a batter in those outings, covering 9-1/3 innings.
Yarbrough tossed five innings of relief on Sunday, allowing one run on two hits and a walk while striking out three against Cleveland. The southpaw took the mound in the second inning after opener Diego Castillo tossed a scoreless first, and held Cleveland scoreless until the seventh when he allowed an RBI single to Jose Ramirez, knocking him out of the game. Yarbrough has lowered his ERA to 3.68, with a 2.67 K/BB, thanks to a 21-1/3 inning stretch where he has allowed just two earned runs total.
Hess allowed five runs (four earned) on nine hits across four innings on Sunday against the Royals. He struck out three and threw just 10/21 first-pitch strikes. Hess was scored upon in three different innings and had an unearned run that originated from his own wild pitch. Hess was coming off three consecutive quality starts — perhaps his best stretch of the season. The right-hander held Tampa Bay scoreless across six innings in his first meeting of the season (May 25), but allowed three runs on four hits in 5-2/3 innings on August 9. Hess was cleared to start after he was hit in the eye with a football while playing catch before Friday’s contest. Key Matchups: Ji-Man Choi (1-2, HR, RBI, BB), Matt Duffy (4-9, 2B, HR, 4 RBI), Joey Wendle (4-5, BB)
Rays 9/8/18 Starting Lineup
You can read about the series in our preview.
— Tampa Bay starts the day eight games back in the AL Wildcard race, but just 1-1/2 games behind the Seattle Mariners, who stand between Tampa Bay and Oakland.
— The Rays will wear their Devil Rays throwback uniforms tonight for the last scheduled time this season.
— Michael Perez is back with the team. The backstop was in Cleveland for the birth of his son, Liam, on Wednesday. He said his hamstring is improving and is confident he’ll return to action this season.
— Former Ray Alex Cobb has been scratched from Sunday’s start due to a blister. Southpaw Josh Rogers will instead start for Baltimore.
— Since his average dipped to .175 on August 14, Kevin Kiermaier has hit .348 with five doubles, three triples, and three home runs.