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Rays 10, Marlins 6: Kelly Johnson Powers Tampa Bay Past Miami

With two three-run home runs on the day, Kelly Johnson set or tied all sorts of career and Rays-franchise records.

Al Messerschmidt

This Memorial Day afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Miami Marlins by a final score of 10-6. The Rays improved to 26-24, while the Marlins dropped to 13-37.

On paper, it looks like today's game would feature a great match-up between two up-and-coming pitching studs. Jose Fernandez is 20-years-old, is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, and has a fastball that averages around 95 MPH. Jake Ordorizzi is 23-years-old, and has torn apart Triple-A this season, and projects to be a #2-3 starter.

Unfortunately, neither pitcher performed quite as expected. Jose Fernandez may have had nasty stuff -- he topped out at 99.8 MPH and generated 11% swinging strikes -- the Rays made him work. He threw around 20+ pitches in every inning, allowed five hits and three walks, and left after a mere 3.1 innings of work. The Rays touched him up for six runs in the second inning (thanks in part to a fortuitous throwing error by catcher Rob Brantly), and tacked on another run in the fourth.

Jake Odorizzi didn't fare much better. He left without getting an out in the fifth inning, and he allowed nine baserunners over that time (eight hits, one walk). While his off-speed pitches did decently -- his change-up generated 23% swinging strikes, he got another two whiffs with his slider, and his curveball went for strikes 70% of the time -- his 90-92 MPH fastball got hit around hard. He left the game after loading the bases in the fifth inning, and Josh Lueke allowed three inherited runners to score to make it 7-6.

Considering the Rays' recent history, I had little faith that the Rays bullpen would hold onto that lead. In a Memorial Day Miracle, though, two things happened: the Rays bullpen pitched like it was 2012 all over again, and Kelly Johnson decided to go Beast Mode.

After the fifth inning, Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney combined for four scoreless innings of work. McGee looked particularly good, pitching two full innings and only allowing one hit. His location still wasn't perfect, but it was considerably better and he even mixed in four sliders. Rodney also looked like the arrow-shooting Rodney of old, using his changeup to devastate the Marlins hitters and strike out two.

But the big story of today's game is Kelly Johnson. In the second inning, Johnson crushed a fastball from Fernandez that got too much of the plate for a three-run home run, putting the Rays ahead at the time 6-0. He proceeded to then get a single and double later in the game, so when he came up in the bottom of the eighth inning, he was a triple away from the cycle. Instead of contenting himself that, though, Johnson hit another three-run home run, giving the Rays a more comfortable 10-6 lead going into the ninth inning.

As Tommy Rancel recently noted over at ESPN's SweetSpot blog, Johnson has adopted a new stance this year and is being more selective in which pitches he swings at, and the early results have paid off. As of right now, he has 10 home runs and a .394 wOBA, second on the team behind Evan Longoria. He also set or tied a number of personal and franchise records today:

The Rays and Marlins finish their two-game series at the Trop tomorrow at 7:10pm EST. After that, the two teams will travel to Miami for another two-game set.