Penultimate game of the season. We're underway vs. the @Rangers in Arlington. #RaysUp— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 2, 2016
Penultimate is a fun word. Say it with me. Penultimate. Hear how that rolls off the tongue? It’s amazing. The problem with a word like penultimate is there are so few chances to use it. So when those rare penultimate events come along, you really need to go all in.
Anyway, in Saturday night’s penultimate matchup of the 2016 season, St. Pete’s favorite sons push for the #2 draft slot was put in jeopardy by facing the slumping Colby Lewis (0-3, 9.75 ERA since coming off the disabled list in the beginning of September). Were they up (down?) to the task? Let’s find out!
One thing about Colby Lewis: he does not seem to be a fan of bunts.
So in the first inning, after Kevin Kiermaier’s attempt at a bunt trickled foul, Lewis followed it up with a not-so-subtle fastball to KK’s calf. More on this later, but for now let’s focus on the fact that this is maybe not the smartest thing for a struggling pitcher to do. And when Longoria followed with a single to right to push Kiermaier to third, it looked even dumber. But this is the Rays, so Miller and Dickerson followed with foul outs, ending the threat.
The Rays did get on the board in the third. Bobby Wilson started the inning with a single to left. One out later, KIermaier reached on a two-base error by Rougned Odor, sending Wilson to third. Evan Longoria followed with a soft groundout for his 98th RBI, and the Rays were up 1-0.
Brad Miller followed with a patient six-pitch walk, bringing Corey Dickerson to the plate for the penultimate at bat of the inning. Dickerson swung at an 0-1 pitch he had no business swinging at. The pitch was literally inches above the ground. I even wondered if Corey’s bat might have scraped the ground on the swing. But what did Dickerson do with that golf shot? He hit it straight and true down the fairway, and out of the park to center. It was as ridiculous as it was impressive.
.@MCoreyDickerson—@RyderCup edition—clubs his 24th HR into the short stuff. #RaysUp— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 2, 2016
WATCH: https://t.co/vGxVsTUiQk pic.twitter.com/smRWZGt5D6
In the bottom of the third inning, KK did KK things.
Platinum, @KKiermaier39. #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/w4imwR53St— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 2, 2016
Not that Odorizzi needed much help up to that point. Through the front five, Jake allowed only two hits, with just one baserunner reach as far as second base, while recording seven strikeouts against zero walks.
But things went a little sideways in the sixth. Robinson Chirinos hit a leadoff solo homer to right-center. On the play, Kevin Kiermaier pulled up lame, pointing at his left calf. It was the same leg which KK had been hit earlier in the game.
Not wanting to risk anything, Cash pulled KK for Jaff Decker. (You could tell he wanted Decker, because he pointed to the dugout and called for the short guy.) Jaff took over right and Mahtook slid over to center. We would later learn that Kiermaier left the game as result of a contusion from being plunked earlier in the game, and it tightened up.
Curiously, after retiring Shoo and DeShields, Jake Odorizzi hit Normar Mazara in the gut with first pitch fastball in the penultimate at bat of the sixth. I’m sure it was just a coincidence and had nothing to do with the Kiermaier thing. Move along, move along, nothing to see here. Jake followed by striking out Hanser Alberto for his eighth K to finish his night.
The bullpen turned in an excellent effort. Danny Farquhar came on and worked a clean seventh, fanning a pair. Brad Boxberger followed with a scoreless penultimate inning, giving up a walk and a steal but also striking out two. Then Alex Colome came on to shut the door. Easy-peasy.
Or it should have been, except for when Corey Dickerson dropped an easy fly ball leading off the inning. Just popped right out of his glove. And then you’re checking the scoreboard, and you see that the Braves won, and the Reds won, and Diamondbacks won, and the A’s are winning. And you think, dang, if we can somehow lose this one, we can do some real damage!
Alas, the spring-loaded mitts calmed down after that, with three fly ball outs (two caught by Dickerson) recorded en route to Colome’s 37th save. And hey, no harm done by this win. We’re still in good position to get that #2 pick.
Join us for the finale tomorrow at 3:05 for Chase Whitley’s first start.