The Rays took down the birds, as expected, in Baltimore Thursday night, 4-3. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

The Tampa Bay Rays scored two crucial runs in the seventh inning on Thursday, allowing them to cobble together a 4-3 road win over the Baltimore Orioles. The Rays enter the day within a game of their high-water mark after taking the first of four contests against Baltimore, earning 1/2 game on the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wildcard race with 58 left to play.

Hunter Wood opened the game for Tampa Bay and got the first five outs, collecting three punch outs (Tim Beckham swinging, Adam Jones swinging, Chris Davis looking) along the way. Ryan Yarbrough, who was credited with the win, came on in relief of Wood with runners at first and second and two outs in the second inning … and promptly walked Jace Peterson to load the bases. But after he got ahead of Caleb Joseph 1-2, Yarbrough got Baltimore’s catcher to fly out to left to end the inning.

Meanwhile, Alex Cobb held his former team hitless over the first three frames, but the Rays changed all that when they got on the board in the fourth inning. Kevin Kiermaier led off the frame by lining a double to centerfield before Jake Bauers drove him home on a one out single through the right side. After CJ Cron moved Bauers up to second on a grounder to third, Ji-Man Choi grounded a two-out single to left, plating a run. Choi started his tenure in Tampa Bay on a 2-for-15 cold streak, although he has collected 15 hits (including two Thursday night) since.

The dreaded leadoff walk would come back to bite Yarbrough in the fifth inning, after Tim Beckham drew a free pass, the first of two mistakes by the left-hander, and Jonathan Schoop followed with a two-run homer that landed just inside the left field foul pole — his second mistake.

However, Yarbrough settled down to retire six of the next eight batters, working 4-1/3 innings overall — his longest outing since June 28 against Houston. Yarbs earned his ninth win of the season, the second-most on the Rays pitching staff behind Blake Snell (12).

Tampa Bay struck back in the top of the seventh, and it all began with Choi, who nearly gave the team a leadoff homer that bounced high off the left-field wall which the umpires ruled a double. After a lengthy review of the play, the call on the field somehow stood. Watch the video (below) and decide for yourself.

Nevertheless, Joey Wendle moved Choi up to third on a single to center before Adeiny Hechavarria drove him in for the go ahead run two batters later, chasing Cobb.

Hechavarria’s go-ahead single | 07/26/2018

Adeiny Hechavarria singles into left field, scoring Ji-Man Choi to help the Rays regain the lead at 3-2 in the 7th

Paul Fry entered in relief, and even though he was able to coax a double play out of Daniel Robertson, he hit Mallex Smith with a pitch and walked Kiermaier to load the bases. Enter former Ray, Jhan Marinez. The right-hander threw a comebacker to Matt Duffy, but a throwing error by Marinez allowed Wendle to score an important insurance run.

Sergio Romo entered against the top of the order in the bottom of the seventh and put down Schoop, Jones and Mark Trumbo in order despite allowing a one out single. Thanks kindly, ground ball double play! But in the bottom of the eighth Romo gave up a solo homer to Chris Davis, cutting the Rays lead to a run. Romo bounced back and collected two fly-ball outs to set up closer Austin Pruitt.

Pruitt struck out Peterson to end the eighth, and retired the Orioles in order in the ninth to record his third career save — his first of less than three innings in length. All three of Pruitt’s saves have come against Baltimore.

The New What Next

Chris Archer (3-4, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Rays amid trade speculation, pitching opposite of Andrew Cashner (2-9, 4.40 ERA).

Chris Archer allowed four runs (three earned) on eight hits while striking out 13 over six innings against the Marlins on Sunday. Archer collected a season-high 13 strikeouts in his 16th outing of the season and now sits with a 3.41 K/BB over 90 innings of work. Archer looks to improve his 4.30 ERA ahead of the trade deadline.

Andrew Cashner allowed one run on six hits and one walk across 5-2/3 innings on Sunday. He struck out two. Cashner surrendered his lone run in the fourth inning, and he was lifted from the game in the sixth inning after throwing 79 pitches (51 strikes, 65% strike rate). While Cashner improved on his previous outing (five runs over 6-1/3 innings vs. the Yankees), he couldn’t collect the victory. The 31-year-old is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA against the Rays this season after allowing five runs on 11 hits and four walks over five innings on May 26. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (3-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Matt Duffy (4-16, 3B, RBI, 2 BB), Daniel Robertson (3-3, 2B), Joey Wendle (1-3, 3B, RBI)

You can read about the series in our preview.

The New What Next: Rays vs Orioles part four — a series preview

Rays 7/27/18 Starting Lineup

Kiermaier CF
Wendle 2B
Bauers 1B
Choi DH
Robertson 3B
Smith LF
Gomez RF
Perez C
Adames SS
Archer RHP

Noteworthiness

— The Rays made their third July trade Thursday night, dealing Jonny Venters back to the Braves in exchange for an international signing slot.

The Rays have recalled RHP Andrew Kittredge to add to the bullpen for now. In 30-1/3 innings for Durham, Kittredge is 4–0 with a 2.62 ERA. The Rays have two open 40-man roster spots, although one will be used when Jacob Faria comes off the 60-day DL. It’s possible the Rays may wait to add current players in the system to the 40-man roster until after the trade deadline on Tuesday.

Neil Solondz (Rays Radio) wrote about the trade, saying:

The 33-year-old Venters went 1–1 with a 3.86 ERA (14-IP, 6-ER) in 22 appearances (one start) this season with the Rays. As a reliever, he pitched to a 0.66 ERA (13.2-IP, 1-ER) in his 21 apps, giving up five runs in his one outing as an opener.

Venters joinned the Rays on April 25th, and made his Tampa Bay debut that night. It was his first appearance in the majors in 2,028 days — since the National League Wild Card Game on October 5, 2012 (with Atlanta). Incidentally, it was the last major league game of former teammate Chipper Jones, who will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. He became the second pitcher to ever return to the majors after three Tommy John surgeries, following Jason Isringhausen, according to FanGraphs.

The deal gave the Rays more flexibility with signing players internationally, where Tampa Bay has been quite successful lately.

Maybe more important in the near term, the move creates roster space for several Durham pitchers who have excelled in Triple-A. It also allows Venters’ great story to continue back with Atlanta.

Venters underwent Tommy John surgery in 2005, 2013 and 2014. He originally signed with the Rays as a minor league free agent on March 11, 2015, and returned from his third Tommy John surgery to make five appearances for Class-A Charlotte in 2016 before the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow was torn for a fourth time. He underwent an additional “half-Tommy John,” performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, to reattach the ligament, and made 24 apps in the minors in 2017.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Venters was the first former All-Star to return to the majors after missing at least five years since Justin Thompson, who was an All-Star in 1997 and pitched for the Texas Rangers on August 18, 2005 in his first game since August 15, 1999.

Venters was selected by the Braves in the 30th round of the 2003 June Draft out of Indian River Community College in Fort Pierce, FL. He spent parts of three seasons (2010–12) with the Braves, going 15–10 with a 2.23 ERA (229.2-IP, 57-ER) while forming a dangerous back end of the Braves bullpen with Craig Kimbrel and Eric O’Flaherty. During that span, he ranked among major league relief leaders in apps (230, tied for second), strikeouts (258, fourth), wins (15, tied for fourth) and ERA (eighth).

— Tampa Bay has the opportunity to make up some ground in the Wildcard race tonight, as Seattle is set to start a three-game series against the fringe contending Angles, while Oakland will take on the 54-47 Rockies in the first of three.

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