Chris Archer collected double digit strikeouts for the second consecutive start against Toronto, while the Rays offense put up a crooked number on the back of two homers and two triples, en route to a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays.
Two in a row. We haven’t said that in a while.
— Rays manager Kevin Cash
Cash has a point. The Rays haven’t strung together a pair of wins since the start of the month when they took three of four from the Houston Astros. That alone made the victory a big deal. Yet that doesn’t diminish the fact that this win was big for another reason.
Going into this bellwether series with Toronto, the Rays knew that they had to hit the ground running against a hurler they struggled against last week. The Rays not only triumphed against right-hander Chris Rowley, but they knocked the hurler out of the game just one out into the fourth — the first time they’ve chased a pitcher that early in a contest since July 30th (vs. Jordan Montgomery). More importantly though, Tampa Bay has won 12 of 15 series’ this season when they have taken the first game of the set. If the numbers speak to anything, Tuesday night’s victory gives Tampa Bay a 75% chance of a series win.
Norichika Aoki led off the game with a solo home run on the second pitch of the ball game, a 1-0 fastball. Archer limited the damage and turned things over to the offense in the bottom half of the frame.
When the Rays were chugging along earlier in the season, they were able to answer opponent’s runs with runs of their own in their half of the inning. They did just that against Rowley, who took the mound against Tampa Bay for the second time in as many starts. Lucas Duda belted a one-out moon-shot to right, his sixth with the Rays (his 23rd overall).
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB_) August 22, 2017
Then Tampa Bay opened the floodgates in the second inning, in a 32-pitch frame against Rowley. Corey Dickerson started the rally by launching his 23rd homer of the season to pull ahead of Toronto.
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB_) August 22, 2017
Wilson Ramos singled on the very next pitch while Brad Miller worked a free pass, putting two runners on with one out. After Adeiny Hechavarria popped out to Josh Donaldson at short — yes, you read that correctly — Kevin Kiermaier tripled to right-center, giving the Rays a 4–1 lead.
Nevertheless Toronto got close in the fifth, taking advantage of a one-out strikeout/passed ball to score twice. With Miguel Montero on first, Ezequiel Carrera lashed a liner to right. Souza attempted to dive, but missed the ball which allowed it to drop into play and bound to the wall — allowing Montero to reach third and Carrera to reach second.
Also, hadn’t Souza dived and allowed ball to roll to the wall, Carrera might have been held to a single. 2 sloppy plays resulted in 2 runs.
— X-Rays Spex (@XRaysSpex) August 23, 2017
A base hit by Ryan Goins made it 4-2, while an Aoki sacrifice-fly allowed the Jays to pull within a run. Archer came up big after he buckled down to strikeout Josh Donaldson for the third time, keeping the Rays on top.
Tampa Bay was able to add critical runs in the fifth and sixth innings against Toronto’s bullpen. Evan Longoria led off the frame with a double to deep left-center. Carrera misplayed the ball, however, allowing Longo to move into third. After southpaw reliever Matt Dermody got an over amped Logan Morrison to pop out to short, he intentionally walked Souza to bring the left-handed hitting Dickerson to the plate. The strategy worked, as Dermody got Dickerson to fly out to left-field … although Souza made a heads up base running decision as Steve Pearce’s throw came into the plate. The right-fielder tagged up at first and made it into second safely.
With two down and the mighty Buffalo at the plate, right-hander Dominic Leone gave up an infield single which drove in Longoria from third.
To put things into perspective:
- There a total solar eclipse yesterday.
- Ramos reached on an infield single for the first time this season, subsequently scoring a run in the process.
- Ramos now has five consecutive multi-hit games.
- If the irony of one infield single isn’t enough, the Buffalo hit another two innings later.
Then in the sixth inning, Longoria tripled home Adeiny Hechavarria with two outs for a three-run lead.
That put Archer, who struck out 10 on 104 pitches (68 strikes, 17 whiffs) over six innings, on the winning side of the ledger. He walked just one and gave up three runs — although just one earned — on four hits.
Dan Jennings followed Archer’s six-inning start with a perfect 12-pitch seventh.
The Rays took their three-run lead into the eighth, when things started to get interesting once again. Toronto drew closer when Josh Donaldson hit a solo homer to left-field off Tommy Hunter to bring the Jays within two. Then with Alex Colome on the mound in the ninth, Kendrys Morales hit a single, Pearce hit a double, and Montero hit a sacrifice-fly to center to make it a one run affair … and all on five pitches. Nevertheless, with the infield drawn in Darwin Barney grounded to second while pinch-runner Rob Refsnyder held at third. Finally, Ryan Goins lined to right, ending the game for Alex Colome’s AL leading 37th save, and the Rays’ 62nd win.
The New What Next
The Rays will try to make it three in a row with Austin Pruitt (6-4, 5.37 ERA, 3.80 FIP) on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Marcus Stroman (11-6, 2.99 ERA, 3.69 FIP).
Pruitt was tagged for a career-high six runs by the Mariners in his last start; his 23rd career appearance (sixth start). He has allowed three combined runs in four of those starts, but five or more in his other two. Pruitt has allowed three runs on six hits (including a homer) over 6-1/3 total innings of work this season against Toronto.
Stroman has limited opponents to three earned runs or fewer in 20 of his 25 starts this season, and has allowed just one home run over his last 10 starts — performing to a 2.02 ERA over that stretch. The right-hander has lasted more than six innings in eight of his last nine starts, performing to a 2.17 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 1.83 K/BB over 54 innings. In his last start against the Rays on August 16, Stroman gave up two runs on six hits and three walks, while striking out seven. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (2-6, 3B), Corey Dickerson (8-24, 3 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI, BB), Lucas Duda (1-3, 2B), Evan Longoria (9-30, 2 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (5-15, 2B, 2 BB)
Rays 8/24/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr RF
— After hitting just .178 in 31 games with the Rays, INF Trevor Plouffe was designated for assignment after the game Tuesday night, thus freeing up space on the active roster for Alex Cobb, who will come off the DL on Thursday. RHP Andrew Kittredge was temporarily recalled up to join the Rays Wednesday night.
OF Cesar Puello was added to the 40-man and active rosters on August 20, which will lend the team an additional right-handed hitter in lieu of Plouffe’s, well … less than productive bat.
Puello told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) he has quickly gotten adjusted to his new teammates and is eager to show what he can do, with a start likely Thursday against southpaw JA Happ:
I’m here to keep working hard, do my best and control what I can control, he said. I’m waiting for them to give me an opportunity but I have to be patient at the same time.