Today's matchup between your over .500 Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers featured Drew Smyly squaring off against Michael Fulmer. Smyly was back in town to face the team that gave him his first shot in the Bigs, hoping to get the Rays their first five game win streak since last April. For Detroit, Fulmer was making just his fifth career start, carried an ERA of over six and half, and had yet to pitch beyond the fifth inning. Good omens, right?
Yeah, not really. Fulmer had all three of his pitches working, and did so displaying a command he had yet to show in the Majors. The fastball, slider, and split played off each other well to keep the Rays off balance.
The Rays did have their chances. They challenged right away in the first, when Brandon Guyer led off by hooking a double inside the third base bag, then moved to third with one out on an aggressive tag up of a not-all-that-deep fly to right center by Brad Miller in which Guyer noticed Maybin was in no position to make a strong throw. Unfortunately, he was stranded there when a walk to Steve Pearce was sandwiched between Ks of Evan Longoria and Corey Dickerson. The Longoria strikeout was especially tough, as Fulmer worked him up and had Evan swinging through two high fastballs before putting him away looking on a nice 3-2 slider away.
The Rays threatened again in the third when Brad Miller stroked a two-out double to left. Longoria again left the runner stranded, this time swinging through a splitter away.
After cruising through the first two innings, Smyly surrendered a homer to left to the red-hot Cameron Maybin.
The Unthinkable Happens
Maybin reached again leading off the fifth, singling in front of Souza. Then tragedy struck. With Maybin running, James McCann hit a soft fly to center. Kevin Kiermaier got a good read on the ball and came charging hard, making a diving attempt at a catch. However, during the dive, he rolled over his wrist awkwardly. The bad news is, KK didn't make the catch. The badder news is KK didn't even wait for the trainer before jogging off the field, because he knew something was broken. I'd post a video, but nobody wants to see that again. It looked really bad, trust me. If there is any good news, it's that the injury is two broken metacarpal bones in his hand rather than a broken wrist. Small consolation.
Oh hey, there's still a game going on. Curt Casali then picked off Maybin at second, bringing the scoring threat down to defcon 5. A liner to Pearce and a grounder to Longo later, and the Rays were out of the inning.
Didn't See That Coming
With two outs in the sixth, Evan Longoria unexpectedly turned around an 0-1 fastball and lifted it out to left. Up to that point in the game, Fulmer had retired nine in a row, including the last three on strikes. But all of a sudden, it was a tie game, 1-1.
Smyly worked out a jam in the bottom of the sixth, pitching around a walk to Miggy Cabrera and a single to Nick Castellanos before stranding both runners on a flyout by Justin Upton.
Fulmer would go back out for the seventh and reassert himself, setting down the side in order. The young Tiger righty finished his night allowing the one earned run on four hits with a walk and eleven strikeouts.
Surprisingly, Smyly went back out to start the bottom of the frame despite pushing 100 pitches. This was likely due to Erasmo not being available, but it was still an odd call. Maybin (of course) greeted him with another freakin' hit on a single to right. Are you kidding me? Then James McCann followed by golfing a 3-1 fastball out to left. Because of course he did. 3-1 Tigers.
Smyly then struck out Iglesias, and that would be it for him. Six and one-third innings, three runs, seven hits, two walks, five strikeouts. Though the two runs in the seventh could have been changed Kevin Cash's lack of faith in his bullpen.
Steve Geltz came in
I feel like that should be enough said. I mean, there's a reason Cash was nervous about not having Ramirez. Still, there are other guys down there besides Geltz, right? Right???
1. Kinsler - Ball, ball, ball, ball.
2. JD Martinez - Ball, foul, ball (wild pitch), ball (steal of third), home run. 5-1 Tigers
3. Cabrera - Ball, ball, foul, ball, loooooooong fly caught over the shoulder by Jennings in center
4. V Martinez - Ball, foul, check swing strike, ball, hard line drive caught by Morrison. Inning over!
Justin Wilson came on for Fulmer to start the eighth. And I'll be danged if the Rays didn't come off the mat again. Casali started the rally with a one-out walk, followed by a Guyer single to center. Next came Miller, who drove a 1-2 pitch into the gap in right center for a triple, chasing home Casali and Guyer. 5-3? Hey, maybe this isn't over yet.
Longoria followed, striking out for the third time in the game. But this time, McCann failed to control the pitch. The ball rolled to the backstop, scoring Miller. After McCann recovered the ball, his throw to first hit Longoria, allowing Evan to reach on the strikeout-wild pitch.
5-4. Huh, how about that. Pearce followed by flying to right, and Dickerson struck out. But there was a chance!
In the bottom of the eighth, Xavier Cedeno sat down the Tigers in order. He even retired Maybin! Struck him out even! Holy cow, guys, I think we're gonna win this thing!
Francisco Rodriguez came for Detroit in the bottom of the ninth. After retiring Souza on strikes, Logan Morrison walked on four pitches. He was replaced at first by pinch runner Taylor Motter. Can you feel it?
But then this zone...
The zone had been pretty big all day, but Ron Kulpa's zone got stretched all out of shape with Desmond Jennings at the plate. I guess you can say he can't take that pitch after Kulpa showed he was gonna call it. But look at it! Maybe he fouls it off. Most likely, he strikes out swinging. He's really in a no-win situation there.
Then Casali tapped out to third, and that was the ball game.
- Yes, the zone was wide all day, but it was wide for both teams. So quit your bitching.
- But that Jennings at-bat? Uuuuuuughhhhh.
- Longo's homer was the 500th extra base hit of his career.
- James McCann made an incredible play to nab Steve Pearce stealing in the sixth. I don't care if he is wearing the wrong color jersey; if you can't appreciate this play, you don't have a heart.
- In the bottom of the sixth, Victor Martinez swung and missed so hard at a Smyly slow curve, he practically spun himself into the ground, possibly injuring himself though he did stay in the game.
- My Fios blinked off during the Dickerson at-bat in the eighth, and didn't finish resetting everything until Cedeno was working the bottom of the inning. So I blame Frontier for killing the rally.
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