We laughed, we cried, we yelled, we mocked, we cursed... we thought we were witnessing an Erasmosplosion like we'd seen in Miami. We wondered aloud what it is about Erasmo Ramirez and the NL East. How could Kevin Cash trot this guy out there again?
Here's how. See, we've had a bit of a starting pitcher injury epidemic in Tampa Bay. One some would say is long overdue. So, sure, I'd love to have Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Drew Smyly out there every fifth day... but we don't have that luxury.
We have Erasmo.
Keep in mind though, in the past we've had Roberto. We've had Bedard. We've had fifth starters who pitched like eighth starters. This time, however, it seems we may have an eighth starter pitching like a fifth. He'll have struggles. Heck, he'll probably have more explosions. But like DRB user "raysfaninminnesota" said towards the end of the Gameday Thread, if the Rays can get 5 average innings from our #8 starter, just enough offense, and a lock down bullpen on the nights that Archer and Odorizzi don't start, that's a winning formula. That's what we got tonight.
The Rays got to Braves starter and former Astros prospect, Mike Foltynewiczywiczyoltywicz early with a first inning Kevin Kiermaier hustle triple that dropped in softly just fair in front of Nick Markakis. Dude had those beautiful baby blues on third base right off the bat and dangit he got there. This kid really is a joy to watch sometimes. With KK on third base, Steven Souza put the Rays on the board early with an RBI single down the left field line. 1-0 Rays
Things got interesting again in the 2nd, when Erasmo rested his arm in the clubhouse and allowed his evil twin, Erassmo, to take the mound. 'Assmo announced his arrival with a Nick Markakis leadoff walk and a Todd Cunningham double to put two on. He followed that up with a vintage AJ Pierzynski lean-in hit by pitch to load the bases. With the bases now juiced and no outs, 'Assmo did 'Assmo things with a little bases loaded walk action via Andrelton Simmons (now tied 1-1), and then a Cameron Maybin single to send Cunningham across the plate. 2-1 Barves... lead erased. Luckily, even Erasmo's mischeivous sibling knows how silly it is for pitchers to hit, and chuckled as Mike Fontywawa meandered to the plate for a quick strike out. Another run would score on a Jace Pederson ground out, but 3 runs would be the extent of the damage, for the inning and for the game.
Down 2 runs, it was showtime for the Rays. In the 3rd inning, A Steven Souza single and steal was followed up by an Evan Longoria single to center that sent Myers 2.0 across the plate to chop the Barves lead to 1. Loney grounded into what looked like a force at second on the next play, but Ciriaco hesitated, and a hustling Longoria seemed to get there in time. The play was reviewed, but alas, there is a very strict policy against the Rays winning any challenges. The out was upheld.
In the 4th, Asdrubal Cabrera channeled his frustration into a MASSIVE solo home run to right field to tie the game at 3. I haven't seen the actual measurements on it, so maybe someone can jump in with that in the comments, but it was a no doubter off the bat. I'd be surprised if it wasn't 400+.
The Rays fired their final salvo of offense in the 5th, with a two out Loney walk, Forsythe RBI single, and DeJesus RBI double to put the Rays up 5-3.
After 5 innings of solid work from Erasmo Ramirez, the ball was handed over to the Rays' incredibly capable bullpen. Xavier Cedeno, Brandon Gomes, Kevin Jepsen, Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee all combined for four delightful scoreless frames of baseball to end the game.
As soon as the game ended, many of us turned our eyes and remotes to the Yankees/Nationals game that was tied 6-6 in the 9th. A loss for the Yankees there would be a pretty big deal, and Ryan Zimmerman gave that to us in walk-off fashion.
At 22-18, in a season that many predicted to be a monumental collapse even BEFORE the injuries began to mount, the Rays are tied for first place in the AL East in late May. Is it sustainable? I don't know. Maybe. Is it fun so far? Lord yes. I'm having a blast.
A couple of quick notes:
- This was a homecoming of sorts for Tim Beckham, and as mentioned in the tank earlier, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream of playing major league baseball in his home town of Atlanta (Griffin), Georgia. Tim graduated high school just 36 miles from Turner Field. He brought thirty, yes THIRTY, friends and family to this game to see him play. I thought the right thing to do was give him the start tonight. But I don't manage a baseball team. Kevin Cash does, and he's doing a terrific job at it. He seems to know his guys and what he's doing, so I'm going to withhold my second guessing here. I just would have maybe liked to have seen my man TBex fulfill that dream with a start.
- The shift was on tonight, and Logan Forsythe made a couple of wonderful snags while he was perfectly positioned for the batter.
- As much as we loathe the Yankee and Red Sox chants at Tropicana Field, I found myself really enjoying a loud but lonely "TAMPAAAA!! BAYYYYYY!!!" chant that came across clear as day in the third inning.
- First place! FIRST PLAAAAAACE!!!!
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