Joey “he can hit” Butler put the Rays on the board early after homering to right for the second straight game, and giving Tampa Bay an early one run advantage. Butler’s no doubter came on a thigh-high hanging breaking pitch that Carlos Carrasco left over the plate, and the mistake was absolutely tattooed.
But Cleveland struck back early against Nathan Karns, who allowed hits to the first two batters (double to Jason Kipnis, bunt single toFrancisco Lindor) in the bottom of the first. Karns was able to get Michael Brantley to lined out to first, but the Indians tied the game on a wild pitch — the first of two by the Rays starter. Yet Karns limited the damage, and Asdrubal Cabrera homered in the second to give Tampa Bay the lead once more. It was Cabrera’s first at-bat in Cleveland, in his homecoming at Progressive Field after spending eight seasons with the Indians.
Karns settled down and became stingy from there, posting 5-1/3 innings of one run ball, and holding Cleveland to 1-6 wRISP. Nathan was pulled one out into the sixth after allowing a pair to reach on back-to-back singles by Michael Brantley and Lindor. He was able to put down Carlos Santana (swinging) before he got pulled, and Karns’ sequence of pitches to the Indians’ catcher was a thing of beauty.The righty was able to get Carrasco to chase a 2-2 change-up as it tailed off the plate.
Xavier Cedeno helped him finish the sixth, striking out pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn and Brandon Moss to end the two-on threat.
Jake Elmore helped the team add to the lead in the seventh when he hit a sac-fly to left, scoring Steven Souza Jr. from third. Elmore, who has been productive in his time with Tampa Bay, now has 13 RBI — as many as he had prior to this season in the majors.
Steve Geltz, who has been stellar of late, worked a perfect seventh, enabling him to continue his streak of 22 at-bats without allowing a batter to reach base. And while Jake McGee gave up a leadoff single to Jason Kipnis (3-for-4), he was erased on a diving catch by Souza on a bloop to right that was turned into a 9-3 double play.
Souza capped the scoring in the ninth with a long no-doubter off the clock in deep left-field — his team leading 14th of the season (the most among rookies).
Brad Boxberger worked the ninth for his 17th save, although he got a little help from The Outlaw, who made a leaping catch in center field for the second out. Boxberger caught Michael Bourn looking with two-on to end the game.
The New What Next
The Rays and Indians continue their weekend set on Saturday. The chronically happy Erasmo Ramirez (6-2, 4.45 ERA) will take the mound for Tampa Bay opposite of 2014 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (3-8, 3.54 ERA). You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 6/20/15 Starting Lineup
— The Rays are now 27-5 when scoring first.
— If I may, I don’t know how the Rays could even consider sending Joey Butler back to Triple-A once John Jaso or Desmond Jennings returns:
Over the past 23 games, Souza and Joey Butler have either scored or driven in 43 of the Rays 87 runs (49%).
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 20, 2015
— Only two teams have more wins than the Rays — the Cardinals have 44, the Astros have 40.