After taking the first game of the series against the Orioles at Camden Yards last night, the Rays looked to clinch the series with a win Tuesday night. A series victory early in yet another road trip that is crucial to the Rays' dwindling playoff hopes would be a huge momentum boost after a truly underwhelming home stand. Tampa Bay looked to Drew Smyly to lead them in the effort and, boy, did he deliver.
Honestly, Tuesday's game may as well have been called The JP and Drew Show, as the Rays' battery put the team on their backs and led the team's momentum.
Smyly's pitching was absolutely lights out. Working seven shutout innings, Smyly threw 100 pitches, 74 of them for strikes. The thing that stood out about his effort was the confidence and conviction with which he threw his pitches. He had the Baltimore lineup off balance all night long, striking out ten Orioles, most of whom fell victim to either his fastball up and out of the zone or his curveball down and out of the zone. His fastball never broke 94MPH, but he located it perfectly and he used it to feast on an overly aggressive Orioles' lineup that started to swing even more freely the further behind they got. His curveball paired well off of that fastball, and he had the O's out front on it all night long, with many swings flailing before the ball even got to the plate. Smyly was in command all night long, and it was a huge boost for the entire Rays' roster.
The guy catching all of those pitches shares equally in the Rays' success tonight. JP Arencibia worked a great game both behind the plate and at it on Tuesday night. He called a fantastic game for a pitcher who's had some struggles coming back from injury and facing a powerful lineup that swings for the fences. He knew the Orioles' tendencies and coached Smyly to pitch to their weaknesses.
His bat came alive as well, going 3-for-4 with a home run and six, count ‘em, six RBI! His home run came in the seventh inning with a man on base, taking Baltimore reliever TJ McFarland deep to straight away centerfield. The home run should come as no surprise, as JP's power is well documented; however, his patience and lack of a strikeout or three does, and was much appreciated.
Continuing on the offensive side of the ball, and there was a ton of offense on a night where Tampa Bay scored 11 runs, the bottom of the Rays' lineup was the engine all night long. The 7-8-9 spots in the lineup went a combined 8-for-14, with Arencibia's three hits and Brandon Guyer having a 4-for-5 night himself, hitting a double and scoring three of the Rays' tallies. The best part of watching Guyer's at bats was the fact that he didn't try to do too much while he was at the plate; he didn't try to take any pitches deep, he didn't look to pull every pitch, he simply worked with what Chris Tillman and the other O's pitchers gave him and it worked to near-perfection.
A little bit of an injury scare came for the Rays when Logan Forsythe, the model of consistency in the Rays lineup who was working on a 3-for-3 night, was replaced in the fifth inning by Tim Beckham. Manager Kevin Cash reported after the game it was groin tightness and his removal was precautionary and he should be fine for tomorrow's finale. The prognosis is good, but after the season the Rays have had, any sneeze or paper cut seems season-ending.
The only runs on Baltimore's side of the ledger came courtesy of the powerful Chris Davis in the bottom of the ninth. After Jimmy Paredes singled off of Kirby Yates, working his second inning of relief, Chris Davis deposited one into the right field seats to make it an 11-2 final score. Yates now sports a 9.69 ERA and left a number of pitches in the zone despite only getting punished for two of them. Glad that time at AAA helped him out . . . But tonight is a happy result, so we'll leave that discussion for a later time.
My Two Cents:
- The Rays put a damper on a celebratory night at Camden Yards, as the O's honored the 20 year anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr's ironman streak of 2,131 straight games played. That guy was good, like real good.
- The Rays were without last night's hero and Sportscenter Top Play recipient Kevin Kiermaier as he nursed his sore ankle suffered last night. Guyer stood in admirably and, thanks to his recent play, finds himself in similar conversations that KK was in at the end of last year: Does he have what it takes to be an everyday player?
- Back to .500 and 3 games back of the last wild card spot (as of this writing, awaiting the score of Texas/San Diego). The calendar has flipped to September and October baseball is knocking at the door. Just waiting to see if the Rays want to answer it badly enough.
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