Before we kick this recap off, three important items need mentioned:
- Longoria wants to hit third in the order.
- Longoria is constantly hit fourth in the order because it is the most advantageous position in the line up to drive in runs.
- Longoria has been moved to third in the lineup.
Tonight that would put Longoria in a position to succeed, and eventually help the Rays along, but things had to get dark before they could get light. I'm talking about Archer's no-good first inning.
Sure Archer missed some spots through the first, loading the bases in quick succession to start the game and reminding me of his previous outing where he finally fell apart. But then I remembered that Archer is a professional, and I waited for good things to come. Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran each singled in a run, but Archer the assassin would arise. He struck out one in the first inning. He'd strike out seven in the following six innings.
The five first batters to come to the plate reached base against Archer, but when he allowed two runners in the following frame, Rene Rivera was there to bail him out, nailing Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner on their steal attempts, and from there Archer only settled in.
And gosh that slider picked up some spin once Archer got to the fifth, peaking above the 70 pitch mark heading into the inning, as it would through the rest of his game. He struck out two-of-three in the seventh on a high pitch count with the spinning 88-mph slider.
Archer improved throughout his night, but it's during that fifth frame that the light switch clearly came on for the ace and the Lightning, as the Ice Rays scored their first goal against the Canadiens in hopes of taking their division, and the video played between innings to delight the divided crowd. And I say divided because there was a vocal Yankees crowd at the Trop yet again.
The first two singles for the Rays were infield hits against enviable starter Nathan Eovaldi, with Souza legging one out in the first (later picked off on Eovaldi's expert move) and Forsythe in the fifth. David DeJesus followed the latter by battling his way to a line drive that went just over the leaping Didi Gregorious's glove to put two on and the first man in scoring position on the night.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Guyer went down in order, however, with Cabby grounding out and Guyer sitting fastball and eventually missing it away. At least the Lightning scored.
In the seventh Longo led with a broken-bat single that dropped in front of the ranging Gardner. Loney moved the runner by grounding out to diving first baseman Garrett Jones.
Logan Forsythe loaded the vacated base when Eovaldi wouldn't throw anywhere near him to put two men on with one out for David DeJesus, a better scenario than his last battle against the New York starter, and that improved when Eovaldi's sliding-splitter knicked off McCann's glove. Eovaldi took the edge off the splitter on the next pitch in attempts to paint the black, but DeJesus read it all the way and lined it up the middle. Tie ballgame.
Kevin Jepsen worked around a walk to hold the eighth, and by this point the Lightning had scored twice more, giving themselves a 3-0 lead and likely sounding the death-knell for Montreal playoff hopes. Meanwhile, in the bottom of the frame, Eovaldi walked Kevin Kiermaier with his 99th pitch, then followed by allowing a soft-liner to Steven Souza Jr. that Stephen Drew couldn't field.
With first and third, the Yankees finally turned to Dellin Betances, and on the first pitch it was Longoria batting third that went after the first pitch. It was hit-able, and given how well Betances has been dealing the last couple weeks, that was a green light. Longo gave it a ride to center, and it went deep enough for an easy sac-fly and a Rays lead.
Souza stole second base easily on a 2-0 pitch below the zone, so the Yanks walked Loney to make it two on yet again, and where Eovaldi wouldn't go near Forsythe it looked like Betances was up for the challenge.
The first pitch, however, dove below the zone and below McCann's glove, through the wickets and to the wall, letting the men move into scoring position. Two pitches later, a pitch in the dirt came up and deflected McCann's mask off his face. Souza read it perfectly and stole home without a slide, a night and day difference to his base running in last night's loss. Forsythe would get caught looking, but the Rays had their lead fortified 4-2.
Brad Boxberger then came on for a quiet ninth.
Rays win, Ice Rays win. Today was a good day.
- Good lord has Forsythe's defense been on point. Kiermaier's arm, however, not so consistent.
- Archer went chasing a foul ball in the seventh that Rivera was also tracking. As both men approached the dugout railing Rivera slid to bail out, but Archer's peripheral vision was two strong and he high stepped in out of there. The ball fell harmlessly, but Archer struck him out anyway.
- On a hot-shot in and out of the first baseman's glove, Asdrubal Cabrera ran his heart out toward the bag but opted to slide, as Jones tracked the ball down and dove in for the bag. I'm never an advocate of sliding into first base, but I'm not sure he had a reasonable choice. Stephen Drew had run in from his position at second to cover the bag but was somewhat late. If Cabby had run through the bag, he would have plowed into Drew. Maybe he should have.
- Jepsen was awarded the win tonight, not the hold. Archer was more deserving for his adjustments to lock down the game.
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