On paper, the Tampa Bay Rays should have lost against Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals last night. While the Rays offense has been pretty good over the last 30 days, Wainwright represented an incredibly tough hurdle to overcome — especially when you consider that he, prior to last night’s start, boasted an 0.96 ERA over the last 30 days, while yielding a total of six runs in his last 53-1/3 innings of work. But the Rays not only rose to the expectations set before them, they exceeded them; walking away from Busch Stadium with a huge defeat against one of the best pitchers in baseball, and taking the first game of the series by five run margin, 7-2.
For the Rays, they’ve now won six straight (their longest streak of the season) and 15 of their last 19. They also regained a game on the Red Sox and now sit 8.o back in the AL East (4.o behind the third place Blue Jays), and 5.5 back in the Wildcard standings.
Fastball command was the name of the game for both Adam Wainwright and Jake Odorizzi. The Rays righty didn’t have it early on, though he improved as the game progressed. Thankfully, the first two batters didn’t set the tone of the game. Matt Carpenter crushed a 3-1, center-center meatball to dead center, giving the Cardinals a quick one run lead. Odorizzi followed with a walk of Kolten Wong. But when Wong went for the swipe of second on the first pitch, Jose Molina — receiving the pitch standing up — gunned down the Cardinals base runner for the first out of the inning. He closed the first frame with a strikeout of Matt Adams, and followed by striking out the first two batters in the second inning.
James Loney led off the second inning by lining a double to center, and Jose Molina followed with a base hit to put runners on the corners for Odorizzi who hadn’t stepped into the batter’s box since high school. After taking a strike, he laid down perfect bunt up the first base line. James Loney easily scored on the fielder’s choice to first, and Odorizzi was mobbed by the dugout.
Joe Maddon was ejected for the fourth time this season, after Ben Zobrist took an outside pitch for strike three. The egregious call caused the normally level headed Zobrist throw down his bat in frustration. As he walked to the dugout, home plate umpire Mark Ripperger effectively stared down Zobrist down the steps and into the dugout. Maddon was none too happy with the display and yelled repeatedly, “That’s outside, that’s outside!” By all accounts, the Rays skipper wasn’t yelling at Ripperger. Rather he was yelling in the direction of Wainwright and/or the second base umpire. After Maddon was ejected, he decided to take the field and explain his position. If the Pitch F/X below speaks to anything, it’s that both Zobrist and Maddon were right.
Matt Carpenter followed a Wainwright strikeout in the third inning with a single, and moved to second on a bobbled double play ball that Ben Zobrist should have handled. Unfazed, Odorizzi coaxed a towering foul ball out of Matt Holliday which James Loney was able to track down, reach over the tarp and into the first row, and nab for the final out in the third.
Loney and Molina safely reached on a base hit and a walk (respectively) in the fourth, bringing Odorizzi to the plate in the fourth — this time with two outs, so no bunting. Loney and Molina, the slowest runners on the team, pulled off something remarkable: A double steal on a swinging strike. Too bad Odorizzi struck out on a center-center curveball.
Odorizzi put the side down in order in the Cards’ half of the fourth, striking out Johnny Peralta on a high fastball, inducing a fly-ball out of Allen Craig (which Desmond Jennings was able to adjust to and flag down), and an easy John Jay popper to left.
Things unravelled for Wainwright in the fifth inning.
After a Kevin Kiermaier walk, and an error by Wainwright which allowed Zobrist to reach first, Evan Longoria took a bases loaded HBP — bringing Matt Joyce to the plate. Joyce was finally productive with the bases loaded, plating a run on an opposite field, seeing-eye double. Loney as next, walking on five pitches and driving in the third run of the game. With the bases still loaded, Yunel Escobar broke things open on a two run, ground-rule double. Molina stepped to the plate and drove in another run on a one out fielder’s choice. Odorizzi also reached safely on a walk, ending Wainwright’s night.
Odorizzi was able to put a goose egg on the board following the big five run fifth, quickly striking out Tony Cruz for the first out of the inning, then following with a pop out to short by Daniel Descalso, and an 8-9-1 Matt Carpenter ground out to finish the inning.
With the weather turning for the worst, Odorizzi started the sixth with another strikeout (Wong). But he wasn’t so lucky in the next at-bat, relinquishing a full count no doubter (to left) to Matt Holliday — bringing St. Louis within four. Matt Adams followed with a hard struck single to center, bringing Jim Hickey to the mound. Though Jake was able to take down Peralta once more, this time on a dead red split-change, his night came to an end after he walked Allen Craig. Odorizzi’s final line: 5.2 IP/5 H/2 ER/3 BB/8 K 106 pitches.
Jeff Beliveau, Brad Boxberger, and Kirby Yates followed Odorizzi. And despite a tense two-base runner ninth inning by Yates, the ‘pen was able to preserve the lead.
The New What Next
Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn will butt heads in the series finale Wednesday night. The Rays beat up Lynn the last time they faced him (as a reliever), tagging the 27 year-old RHP for three runs in an inning of work. He has been good this season, though he isn’t infallible; opponents have touched the righty for four or more runs on five different occasions, and he’s walked three or more batters nine times — something that bodes well for the Rays’ patient hitters. Lynn can work his fastball into the 98 mph range out of the bullpen, though he’s more inclined to throw a low 90s fastball (touching 93) with sink as a starter. He also features an above average curve ball with tight spin, and an average change up. It should be noted, his curve pairs better with his fastball out of the pen due to the separation in velocity. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview, and I’ll post the starting lineup when it becomes available.
Rays 7/23/14 Starting Lineup
- Evan Longoria mashed RBI number 593 on a ninth inning solo shot (his first since July 4) — surpassing Carl Crawford as the franchise RBI leader. Congrats, Longo!
- Brad Boxberger pitched the eighth. Despite a cheap, infield single by Johnny Peralta, Boxberger was able to ring up a pair of Cardinals on two incredible strikeouts. He absolutely gutted both Holliday and Craig with some great strikes.