After dropping the first two games in the series at home, the Rays looked to avoid the sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Twins, one of the teams they're chasing for the final wild card spot. Looking to help in that effort, Drew Smyly took the hill as he tried to build on the scoreless outing he posted his last start in Oakland.
Smyly worked a strong first inning, as he struck out two Minnesota hitters around a double by the always-on Joe Mauer. Unfortunately, Drew regressed to the form he showed in his first start off of the DL from there. He struggled with his command and location, falling behind numerous hitters and simply not working efficiently, throwing 100 pitches in just 4.1 innings of work. He did notch five strikeouts, though that was more due to the Twins swinging freely and not reading any Rays' pitchers well.
The Rays struck early after a leadoff walk to Brandon Guyer was followed by a single from Daniel Nava, allowing Guyer to advance to third. Evan Longoria hit a deep fly ball to right field, and Guyer took advantage. Nava tried to take second on the throw but was thrown out after misreading the play. Logan Forsythe immediately followed that play up with a solo shot to the deepest part of left centerfield, giving the Rays a 2-0 lead after the first.
The Twins struck right back in the top of the second, as shortstop Eduardo Escobar hit a two-out single to left and catcher Kurt Suzuki drove him in on a double to the left-center, 2-1 Rays.
Then it was time for Minnesota third baseman, Miguel Sano, to show off his power. Sano, who was reported to have been hitting home runs in batting practice off of the Rays' 2008 Championship Banner in left earlier in the day, took a misplaced offering by Smyly and absolutely launched high and deep to left centerfield. The drive, which would've been a massive home run in a park without rafters and O-Rings, hit hard off of the B-ring high above the field and shot back down into center, a ground-rule double at the Trop. Brian Dozier scored on the play, but the damage was limited to that, as Smyly was saved by the Trop's construction, but the game was tied 2-2 in the third.
The Twin Cities would take the lead in the fourth, as Escobar drilled a solo home run of his own to straight-away center. Kurt Suzuki followed the blast up with a double and Shane Robinson got aboard on an infield single, advancing Suzuki to third and then scoring on a rare throwing error by Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Rays' offense swung the pendulum back their way in the fifth as JP Arencibia, making his first start in a Rays' uniform, hit a towering fly ball to centerfield. Byron Buxton made the catch, though Tim Beckham, at third after hitting a double and advancing on a single by Kevin Kiermaier, came in to score, making it a 4-3 ballgame. Beckham arguably could've scored on the single by Kiermaier and made the turn to do so, but was held up by third base coach Charlie Montyo, much to the chagrin of the Tampa faithful in attendance.
Forsythe led off the bottom of the sixth with a double. With one out, Joey Butler - in his return to the lineup from Durham as Desmond Jennings was placed on the 15-day DL - made his presence known, dropping a single into the gap in left-center, scoring Forsythe as Butler advanced to second on the throw. After John Jaso grounded out, advancing Butler to third, the Rays capitalized on an increasingly sloppy Twins battery, scoring Butler on a passed ball, giving the Rays a 5-4 lead that would stand to secure the victory!
My Two Cents:
- The bullpen looked great tonight, throwing a combined 4.2 scoreless innings. Brandon Gomes got a few "clutch" outs, including a double play with two runners on. Alex Colome was lights out for two innings in his first appearance in consecutive games and Brad Boxberger was free-wheeling in the ninth as he struck out the side. Great effort out of the ‘pen!
- We got pretty much what is to be expected out of Arencibia tonight. More strikeouts than anything, but a well struck ball that plated a run. There were a few pitches I thought JP could've lined up better and taken yard, but this is a game of inches.
- The win brought the Rays back to 2.5 games out of the last wild card berth. The road gets tougher this weekend, as the Kansas City Royals come to town, bringing Ben Zobrist home with them.
- Every game counts now, and the Rays hold their fate in their own hands; let's hope they can consistently play like it.