Evan Longoria had a four-hit game, which included the game-winning RBI single in the eighth inning, as the Tampa Bay Rays won a back-and-forth battle against the New York Yankees, 5–4. Don’t look now, but the Rays have put together a modest three-game win streak (6-4 over their last 10 games) and are back to .500 on the season.
The LI graph for an incredibly fun game. Source: FanGraphs
The Yankees got things started early against Erasmo Ramirez, who is widely known to work quickly and throw strikes. With one out, Jacoby Ellsbury singled to center and went to third on Matt Holliday’s double to center. Surely the threat of Kevin Kiermaier’s arm factored into the decision to hold Ellsbury at third, however, when Starlin Castro grounded out to short, Ellsbury crossed the plate to break the seal. Ramirez was able to limit the damage to just a run by striking out Didi Gregorius (swinging) to end the inning.
Down by a run, the Rays came charging back in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at one apiece against starter Luis Severino — who was not particularly sharp over his 25+ pitch first. Corey Dickerson led off the frame with a well struck single to center, yet both Kiermaier and Evan Longoria traded places with the Rays’ DH after they hit into back-to-back fielder’s choices. With two outs, however, Longoria scored from first on Logan Morrison’s double to left-center, putting Tampa Bay on the board.
New York broke the stalemate in the third inning when Gardner reached on a bunt single. Charging and bare-handing the ball, Longoria sailed his throw past Morrison at first, allowing Gardner to advance to second. Ellsbury then slapped a double up the left field line on the very next pitch, putting the Yankees ahead by a 2–1 margin.
…And the Yankees maintained that one-run lead until the seventh, when Tampa Bay took its first lead of the game.
The Rays started the rally against Adam Warren with three straight singles from Dickerson, Kiermaier and Longoria — loading the bases with none out. Morrison followed with a 400 for sac-fly to center, allowing all three runners to advance, tying the game. After Steven Souza Jr. struck out, the Yankees brought in lefty Chasen Shreve for Colby Rasmus. But Kevin Cash, playing chess, put the right-handed Rickie Weeks Jr. into the game to pinch-hit, and he came through by chopping a ground ball that skipped past Ronald Torreyes up the third base line for a two-run double, putting Tampa Bay by a pair. As Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) opined, Weeks is said to have a big impact in the clubhouse, and he finally came through in a big way on the field.
The lead took Ramirez off the hook, in his first start since replacing Blake Snell in the rotation. The smiley one needed just 65 pitches (48 strikes) to work into the sixth, allowing just two runs (one earned) on six hits, while walking one and striking out five. He efficiently got 11 of his 16 outs in three pitches or fewer. Welcome back, King Erasmo.
Yet as we’ve seen all season, the bullpen — this time Jose Alvarado and Ryne Stanek — allowed the lead to slip away in the eighth. Alvarado walked Gardner, the first free pass he’s allowed in the big leagues, before he coaxed a popper to short left out of Ellsbury for the first out of the frame. Now with Stanek on the bump, Gardner moved into second on a wild pitch, before Matt Holliday homered to right on a 100 mph, 2–2 fastball. Castro singled, which led to Stanek’s exit, before Danny Farquhar got Aaron Judge to bounce into a 5–4–3 double play to end the frame and preserve the tie.
Something they haven’t often done this season, although they do seem to be improving, the Rays took the lead for the second and final time in the bottom of the inning. Norris walked against Tyler Clippard with one out. After Dickerson went down swinging, Kiermaier worked a four-pitch walk, putting two aboard for Longoria.
Longoria took the first pitch for a strike, then lined a single into left field, scoring Norris from second for a 5–4 lead. It was the seventh four hit game for Longoria, who was part of every Tampa Bay rally. The team now has scored five or more runs in five consecutive games, and six of the past seven contests.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 20, 2017
Alex Colome finished things up by working a perfect ninth for his 11th save. Danny Farquhar, kept the game tied in the eighth, earned the win.
The New What Next
Tampa Bay has a chance to get back over .500 this afternoon for the first time in a month. The Rays have won three straight for the first time since sweeping Detroit (April 18–20). Matt Andriese (3-1, 3.18 ERA, 4.45 FIP) will take the mound today, opposite of fellow righty Masahiro Tanaka (5-2, 5.80 ERA, 5.37 FIP).
Andriese battled against the Red Sox in his last start, allowing just two runs on four hits and four walks, while striking out five batters over five innings. The right-hander has been solid, although the outcome of this game likely depends upon which Tanaka shows up to pitch for New York on Saturday.
Tanaka was tagged for eight runs on seven hits and one walk over just 1-2/3 innings on Sunday by the Astros. He has shown some promise this season, winning each of his previous five starts, and allowing a total of 11 earned runs in that span. Yet at other times it looks like he’s throwing batting practice. Tanaka allowed seven runs on eight hits in just 2-2/3 innings of work against Tampa Bay on Opening Day. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-3, 2B), Corey Dickerson (6-16, 2 2B, HR, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (6-12, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, BB)
Rays 5/20/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr RF
— Disabled list update:
SS Matt Duffy (heel), who stopped his minor-league rehab because of soreness, participated in pregame batting practice and took ground balls Friday afternoon. Duffy is expected to do it again today, and should resume his rehab shortly.
Meanwhile RHP Tommy Hunter (right calf strain) is slated to throw live batting practice this afternoon, while C Wilson Ramos (offseason knee surgery) hit on the field Friday for the first time.