It had all the makings of another disappointment: another flawed bullpen performance, a grand slam lead that was undone by an eighth inning grand slam, and a ninth inning solo shot that gave the Twins the go ahead lead. Yet despite everything, the Tampa Bay Rays scratched out a run against Fernando Rodney in the ninth, and another in the 10th inning for their first walk-off win of the season. When all was said and done, the Rays exited the Trop with an orange glowing roof and their third win in four days, 8-7.
The Twins took the initial lead in the second inning, when Logan Morrison homered to right off Chris Archer — his first homer in a Twins uniform.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 20, 2018
When you leave a flat slider over the heart of the plate, things like that are going to happen. Yet Archer settled down after the shaky second.
Archer got better depth on his slider and paired it with a lively fastball, as well a changeup which he largely threw to southpaw hitters. In fact, Archer threw 14 changeups on the night (10 for strikes, two whiffs) — a rarity of sorts. Archer notched a of whiffy strikeout of Kepler, and coaxed a ground ball out from Morrison in the seventh, both via the changeup.
All told, Archer went 6-2/3 innings and allowed just two runs on four hits, while walking one and fanning five. He threw 92 pitches (62 strikes, 67% K/BB). His walk came with two outs in the seventh and forced Jose Alvarado finish the frame, which likely shortened how long he could go in the eighth. (More on that below)
Down by one in the third inning, Tampa Bay got on the board … although they left a lot of chicken on the bone. Wilson Ramos got things started with a free pass, before he moved up to second on Mallex Smith’s infield hit into the hole at short. Adeiny Hechavarria followed with a single up the middle. Ramos blew through a stop sign at third, and scored; let’s see you try to stop a Buffalo running with a full head of steam. Max Kepler’s corresponding throw to the plate was off line, which allowed the runners to advance 90 feet.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 20, 2018
Denard Span walked on four pitches to load the bases with none out, but C.J. Cron popped to Brian Dozier in shallow center for the first out, and Carlos Gomez grounded into an inning-ending 4–6–3 double play.
Minnesota regained the lead in the top of the fifth inning when Eduardo Escobar doubled to centerfield, off the glove of a diving Smith. To his credit, Smith made a great effort and appeared to catch the ball before it popped out of his glove. Somehow it was ruled a “no catch” on the field, which was confirmed upon replay. Kepler kept the rally going after he grounded to second to Joey Wendle, who made a diving stop on the play. But Kepler beat out the corresponding throw for an infield hit. Then with Kepler in motion, Grossman grounded hard to Hechavarria’s backhand, allowing a run scored on the groundout for the go ahead lead.
Word of the day – howdedodat
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 21, 2018
The stellar play, however, earned the Rays an out and allowed Archer to get one step closer to limiting the damage.
Tampa Bay took the lead for the first time in the fifth inning after Ramos, who scored twice, singled hard to right-center to start the rally. After Smith lined out to third, Hechavarria walked, putting two aboard for Span, Tampa Bay’s RBI leader, who drove in a pair of runs on a double into the right-field corner.
Then they extended that lead in the seventh, chasing Lynn. Smith walked to start the frame, then moved to third on Hechavarria’s double to right. Span followed by looping a single to right off reliever Taylor Rogers, scoring Smith, before Hechavarria came home after Grossman bobbled the ball for an error, giving Tampa Bay a three-run advantage advantage. With two outs against the third pitcher of the inning, Ryan Pressley, Miller walked before Daniel Robertson singled home Span to make it 6-2.
Yet another bullpen blowup stole the Rays grand slam lead. Alvarado, who finished the seventh inning for Archer, walked Grossman to start the eighth, yet quickly put down Castro.
Sergio Romo followed and allowed a luck dragon-esque bloop single to Dozier before walking Mauer to load the bases with just one out. After Romo made Sano look foolish for swinging through three off-speed pitches for out number two, Eddie Rosario lifted an 0-2 pitch into right field seats for a game tying grand slam.
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) April 21, 2018
In all fairness, it was a good pitch. Romo buried a slider to the left-handed hitting Rosario, who went down and got it. Nevertheless, a grand slam is a grand slam, and almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
Ryan Yarbrough got the final out of the eighth, but allowed a one-out homer to Max Kepler in the ninth, putting the Twins ahead for the first time since the fifth inning. That set the stage for a couple of late rallies.
After losing the lead, the Rays were down to their final out in the bottom of the ninth against Rodney, Tampa Bay’s former closer. Gomez was hit by a pitch then swiped second, leaving it up to Miller the plate the tying run. Miller responded with a bullet that ricocheted off the mound, deflected off Escobar’s glove and rolled into centerfield, scoring Gomez.
Give Denard Span a key to the city!!! Mr. Clutch drives in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th as the @RaysBaseball beat the Minnesota Twins in the first game of their series! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/zxAijJQJ1s
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 21, 2018
Then in the tenth, Ramos doubled to left with one out against Zach Duke. After Smith went down swinging, Hechavarria was walked intentionally to put two on. Instead of relying on the Buffalo to score from second if’n the opportunity presented itself, Kevin Cash pinch ran Johnny Field for Ramos — a decision that quickly paid dividends.
Span, who drove in three runs by this point, hit a rocket to first on which Mauer made a diving stab. However, on the flip to first Duke missed the bag and Field scored from second. The call was reviewed, but after two minutes the call stood and Tampa Bay emerged as the walk off a winner.
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 21, 2018
Alex Colome was credited with the win after he hurled a perfect tenth inning.
The New What Next
The Rays and Twins play game two of three on Saturday with Blake Snell (2–1, 2.95 ERA) starting opposite Kyle Gibson (1–0 3.68 ERA).
Blake Snell got the win over Texas on Monday, allowing up just one earned run on five hits over 6-1/3 innings. He fanned nine and walked. It was the second consecutive strong outing for the southpaw, who has given up just two earned runs to go along with 19 punchouts over his past 12-1/3 frames. He also has improved his control — not issuing a single walk against Texas after surrendering five to the White Sox in his previous start. Aside from one bad outing against the Yankees, Snell now sports a solid 2.95 ERA to go along with 26 punch-outs over 21-1/3 combined innings.
Kyle Gibson allowed five runs on seven hits and four walks over 4-1/3 innings on Wednesday. He struck out four. Gibson struggled early and often, allowing multiple base runners to reach in all but one inning, although the real damage came in the fifth inning when he allowed four of the first five batters to reach base before being chased. All four came around to score, with two coming in after he handed the ball to Trevor Hildenberger. The right-hander has now failed to make it out of the fifth inning in consecutive starts after tossing six scoreless frames in his 2018 debut. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (3-9, RBI, BB), Carlos Gomez (4-12, 2B, RBI), Brad Miller (6-12, 2 2B, RBI, 4 BB)
You can read about the series in our preview.
Rays 4/21/18 Starting Lineup