If you’re a fan of deja vu, then you’ll truly appreciate the last two ballgames by the Tampa Bay Rays. On Friday, as with Thursday, the Rays fell to the New York Yankees by a score of 8-4 in extra innings.
On the bright side, 22,182 fans attended last night’s contest — if you’re counting, that’s five consecutive games with 20,000-plus fans in attendance at Tropicana Field. You have to go back to 2017 for a comparable stretch of four consecutive games with 20,000 fans or more in attendance (July 6 – 9 vs. Boston). The Rays start the day with an average home attendance of 15,253 per game — up 670 per game from this point last season. If at least 21,000 fans attend the final two games of the homestand, Tampa Bay will end the ceremonial first half of the season with an average attendance of 16,500 (give or take). As I said before, moderate gains are still gains.
The Rays bullpen left a smudge on the night for Nate Lowe, who hit his first big league homer in the fourth inning. After working a 10-pitch at-bat against Masahiro Tanaka, Lowe drove the last offering 417.62 feet into the left-center seats, tying the game at one.
Lowe wasn’t the only one to hit a no-doubter Friday night. Mike Zunino, with the power of Mary J. Blige — whose music he walked up to — unleashed a massive 455.4-foot blast into left-field, bringing the Rays within a run of the Yankees in the fifth inning.
That snapped a 25-game (88 plate appearance) homerless streak for Zunino.
Yet, after the Rays took a very brief lead in the home half of the seventh, pinch-hitter Aaron Hicks tied it on the second pitch of his at-bat against Emilio Pagan. The right-hander was able to bounce back and throw scoreless ball the rest of the eighth and the ninth, keeping the game even.
Tampa Bay had an opportunity to end it in the ninth against David Hale. Joey Wendle singled to center and moved into second on a grounder to first by Mike Brosseau. Guillermo Heredia grounded out to third before Travis d’Arnaud walked on four pitches with Wendle advancing to third on a passed ball. However, Tommy Pham, who went 0-6 with three strikeouts, bounced out to short, ending the threat.
After Colin Poche worked a scoreless tenth, Ryne Stanek took the mound in the top of the eleventh inning. Aaron Judge welcomed Stanek rather rudely, drilling a first-pitch fastball over the wall in center, putting New York up by a run. The right-hander was able to bounce back and get the next two batters before Gleyber Torres hit a bullet line drive to left for a single. Gio Urshela followed with a double off the wall in left before Brett Gardner hit a three-run homer to centerfield.
Over the last seven days, Tampa Bay’s relief corps has performed to a combined 7.03 ERA and 4.11 FIP, and have given up 25 earned runs and seven homers. Because of the need for a fresh arm in the ‘pen, the Rays optioned Brendan McKay back to Durham and promoted southpaw reliever Ian Gibaut.
Gibaut entered Spring Training with a chance to make the big league squad thanks to a strong 2018 campaign in Durham, where he collected 14 saves while posting a 2.09 ERA with 75 strikeouts across 56 innings of work. A right lat strain set him back before the start of the season, however. The left-hander made his season debut on June 4 for the Class-A Stone Crabs, then moved up to Durham nine days later. In 11 minor-league games across two levels, Gibaut is 1-1 with a 1.59 ERA, with four saves and 17 strikeouts over 11-1/3 innings.
The New What Next
The Rays will look to get off the schneid Saturday afternoon with Blake Snell (5-7, 4.87 ERA) on the mound. He’ll pitch opposite of Grimmace lookalike, C.C. Sabathia (5-4, 4.04 ERA).
Blake Snell struck out 12 and allowed two runs on three hits over six innings in a win over Texas on Sunday. Snell was desperate for a good outing after lasting just seven innings in his previous three starts combined. He got exactly what he needed Sunday. The 26-year-old lefty flattened the Rangers’ lineup with Joey Gallo’s two-run blast being the only significant damage he allowed. It was his first start with double-digit strikeouts since May 12 and he lowered his season ERA to 4.87 in the process.
C.C. Sabathia gave up two runs on six hits and two walks over six innings while striking out nine on Monday. The Grimmace like southpaw did give allow some hard contact although his control was decent, throwing 64 of 104 pitches for strikes (62% strike rate) en route to his fourth quality start of the season. Sabathia will take a 4.04 ERA and 2.54 K/BB through 69 innings into his start on Saturday. Sabathia is 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in three starts (17 innings) against the Rays this season. Key Matchups: Willy Adames (4-14, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Travis d’Arnaud (3-12), Kevin Kiermaier (5-16, 2 HR, 2 RBI), Tommy Pham (3-10, 2 2B, RBI), Joey Wendle (1-2), Mike Zunino (5-11, HR, RBI, BB)
You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.
Rays 7/6/19 Starting Lineup
- Heredia LF
- Pham DH
- Diaz 2B
- Garcia RF
- Brosseau 3B
- Kiermaier CF
- Adames SS
- d’Arnaud C
- N. Lowe 1B