In an improbable turn of events, the Tampa Bay Rays rallied for two runs against Oakland’s closer with none on and two outs in the ninth inning. After the stunning 4–3 win over the Athletics, the Rays are now seven games over .500 for the first time this season.
A victory seemed highly unlikely early on, thanks to another inconsistent start by Blake Snell. Yet aside from a misplaced pitch in the first inning, which allowed Oakland to take a 2-0 when Khris Davis homered to centerfield, Snell looked good over the first three frames. The southpaw used his mid ’90s fastball to play off a devastating slider, allowing him to change the eye level of a number of hitters.
Down by a pair, that gave the Rays an opportunity to come back and even the score.
Tampa Bay took advantage of a leadoff walk, and a fielding error, when Brad Miller hit a sacrifice fly in the second got the Rays on the board. Then in the third inning, Steven Souza Jr. drilled a solo shot to left-center — his 20th of the season, and second in as many days, tying the score.
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) July 19, 2017
This 113.2-mph laserbeam by Steven Souza Jr. is the hardest HR Statcast has ever tracked from a Rays player. pic.twitter.com/5SwQFWZlzQ
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) July 19, 2017
At 113.2 mph off the bat, Souza’s shot was the the hardest hit by a Ray in the StatCast era.
Yet in the fourth inning the wheels fell off Snell, who needed 31 pitches (just 15 strikes) to notch three outs after he walked the first two batters of the frame. He got Matt Chapman to fly out to deep center, which allowed Khris Davis to move into third, before uncorking a wild pitch that bounced a couple of feet in front of home plate, and all the way to the backstop. No amount of cat-like reflexes would allow Wilson Ramos to make a play on a pitch so poorly yanked into the dirt. Davis scored from third, putting Oakland up 3-2.
Snell’s night was done after 85 pitches and four innings; he struck out six but walked three. Simply put, the Rays cannot leave Snell in the rotation and have postseason aspirations. The team cannot afford the inning to inning inconsistencies, and the four-to-five inning starts each turn.
Until the ninth inning rally, 36-year-old journeyman Chris “Cy Young” Smith held Tampa Bay in check. The soft-tosser faced the minimum over his last four innings, and coaxed lots of soft contact from the Rays’ amped bats. Blake Treinen pitched a scoreless eighth, which set the stage for the ninth.
Trailing by a run, Evan Longoria was robbed of an extra base hit by Oakland’s third baseman — also robbing Longoria of a chance to extend his hitting streak to 11. However, after Logan Morrison went down swinging for the second out, Wilson Ramos kept the contest alive with a single to left off Santiago Casilla.
After the game, Ramos spoke about his big two-out hit:
To me the game’s not over until the 27th out, and I don’t like to be the 27th out.
Bench coach Tom Foley wisely pinch-ran Mallex Smith for the lumbering catcher — a move that instantly paid dividends for Tampa Bay. Smith’s presence on the base paths clearly rattled Casilla, who wild pitched the speedy outfielder into second. Smith then aggressively swiped third, putting a runner into prime scoring position. After Miller walked, Adeiny Hechavarria singled to right, tying the game at three.
2 legit 2 quit. pic.twitter.com/E4HS7FptZk
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 19, 2017
It was the second time that Hechavarria had tied a game on the road with Tampa Bay down to its final out.
Shane Peterson then singled to right, putting the Rays in front for the first time at 4–3.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 19, 2017
After Peterson stole second against Liam Hendriks, who replaced Casilla, Peter Bourjos struck out to end the rally.
Alex Colome took over in the bottom of the ninth and struck out Davis and Jed Lowrie to start the inning, before he hit Chapman with a 90 mph hanging slider; bringing former Ray Matt Joyce to the plate. Yet Joyce grounded to first, ending the game.
The New What Next
The Rays look to sweep the series on Wednesday with Jacob Faria (4-0, 2.00 ERA, 3.48 FIP) on the mound. He’ll get the start opposite of Sonny Gray (5-4, 3.72 ERA, 3.46 FIP). Last night’s win — which took the pressure off the Rays to win the series in the finale — was important, considering that Sonny has been pitching well of late.
Faria posted his seventh consecutive quality start on Friday, holding the Angels to one run on five hits over 6-2/3 innings for a no-decision. The right-hander was tough even without his best stuff. The cool as a cucumber rookie stranded runners in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings — holding the Angels to 0-for-6 wRISP in those spots.
Gray tossed six shutout innings against Cleveland on Friday, giving up just two hits and walking one while fanning five and coaxing seven groundouts. The Rays were able to get to the 27 year-old right-hander the last time they faced him, tagging Gray for five runs (two earned) on nine hits over six innings … although he did strikeout 10. For whatever reason, Tampa Bay has fared well against Sonny over his career, as he is 2-2 with a 4.02 ERA against the Rays in eight starts. Key Matchups: Tim Beckham (4-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI), Corey Dickerson (2-8, HR, 3 RBI), Evan Longoria (8-23, 3 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Trevor Plouffe (2-7, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Mallex Smith (1-3)
Rays 7/19/17 Starting Lineup
— The scoreless frame by Colome capped five scoreless innings by the Rays relief staff. Erasmo Ramirez tossed three perfect frames following Blake Snell. Andrew Kittredge, who made his MLB debut, and Adam Kolarek combined to throw a scoreless ninth, with Kittedge relinquishing just a base hit in the process. Kolarek was credited with his first MLB win.
— Speaking of Kittredge, how about his highly touted slider? He threw it six times, all for strikes, with an average of 4.63 inches of horizontal movement.
— How did Kevin Cash follow Tim Beckham’s called third strike tirade on Monday night? By arguing balls and strikes Tuesday, and consequently getting tossed. To his credit, and like Beckham before him, Cash had a point:
*Green dots are balls, red dots are strikes.