After taking the first game of series on Wednesday night, the Rays looked to win the series against their intrastate rivals, the Miami Marlins. Playing for pride at this point, Tampa Bay sought to continue the effort to end this season on a winning streak against an anemic Marlins’ offense, but backed by one of the most electrifying young pitchers in the game, Jose Fernandez.
Luckily for the Rays, their offense was up to the task of keeping up with the young fireballer. Fernandez, whose fastball hit triple digits at times, gave up 11 hits to the Rays lineup over six innings pitched. The top five hitters for the Rays all had two hits apiece, followed by James Loney in the six hole going 3-for-4. Kevin Kiermaier also had a three hit ballgame to add to the ledger.
Fernandez was able to add to his strikeout portfolio, ringing up nine Rays batsmen during his time on the hill. To keep that number in perspective, however, both Nick Franklin and Tim Beckham accounted for three K’s each. (Assuming Asdrubal Cabrera ends up elsewhere next season, the incumbents for next season’s shortstop spot sure look promising . . . )
On the mound for the Rays was Jake Odorizzi, who pitched extremely well over seven innings of his own, striking out seven batters over that span. Odorizzi scattered four hits and did walk two batters, but he worked well, kept Marlins pitchers off balance, and overall, turned in a great performance.
The Rays got on the board early, when Evan Longoria took Fernandez deep to left field with two outs. On a 2-0 count, Fernandez left a 97MPH fastball up in the zone and Longoria jumped on it for his 21st homer on the season.
The offense kept rolling in the bottom of the third after John Jaso and Steven Souza Jr. hit back to back singles, with Jaso advancing to third on Souza’s. Grady Sizemore drove in Jaso from third on a one out base knock of his own.
After the Marlins finally got on the board in the top of the fifth on a sac fly by the ageless Ichiro Suzuki, the Rays tallied their final two runs of the night in the seventh. Longoria doubled to left field on a full count fastball up in the zone after a leadoff single by Souza. Souza got on his horse and scored all the way from first base. After a Grady Sizemore fly out, JP Arencibia singled in Longoria from second base, making the Rays’ lead 4-1.
Kevin Kiermaier, sporting a 3-for-4 line at the plate, wanted to remind the baseball world that he is perhaps the best defensive centerfielder as well. In the top of the seventh with two outs, Ichiro hit a sinking line drive that dropped into shallow center. As we’ve seen him do so many times this season, Kiermaier snared the baseball and rifled it home. The throw came in on a frozen rope and JP Arencibia played it clean and applied the tag to the on-charging JT Realmuto, beating him by a stride to end the inning.
After a strong inning of work by Xavier Cedeno in the 8th, Brad Boxberger came on in the 9th and locked it down to earn his 41st handshake of the season.
In closing, the Rays hung 11 hits on one of the best pitchers in the league tonight. Any chance that offense can carry over six months?