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Rays 8 Rangers 4: Rays take series from first place Rangers.

Pitching, hitting and defense. This is fun.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s game had an inauspicious start: the DJ Kitty/Raymond bobbleheads that were today’s giveaway did not arrive on time! The Rays promised rain checks to kids in attendance, but things could have gotten ugly. 2016 Rays fans, however, are good at dealing with disappointment, so there were no reports of unrest or even undue whining.

Innings 1-3

The first inning had some good omens: a caught stealing of Odor in the top of the inning, and then a manufactured Rays threat, with Miller reaching on an error, getting to second on a balk, and to third on text book lovely Tim Beckham sac bunt. The Rangers didn’t have to pay much for their mistakes, however, as neither Souza nor Dickerson were able to get the run home. This was disappointing because in the second inning, Smyly allowed a hit to Robinson Chirinos, former Ray, followed by a home run to Delino DeShields, and the Rays were quickly behind, 2-0.

But Martin Perez’s struggles with control helped the Rays climb back into the game in the bottom of the 3rd. Perez walked Bobby Wilson, which should incur some sort of clubhouse fine, as well as Matt Duffy, and a Longoria almost-out-of-here but settle for a double scored one run, as the Rays trailed 2-1. Brad Miller’s effort to continue his RBI machine ways was thwarted by an excellent catch by right fielder DeShields.

Middle Innings

As Smyly settled in, the Rays took the lead in the 4th.

The Rays bottom of the 4th had just about everything a fan could want. There was a Tim Beckham double, and like my colleague Mr. Hatfield I am tickled whenever Timmy does something great.

A Souza single was followed by a bloop-ish single to right by Dickerson, who fought off a high inside pitch to make effective contact, scoring Beckham and tying the game at 2-2. Then came the Bobby Wilson squeeze bunt, with Souza hustling from third to score just ahead of the throw. To paraphrase Tom Glavine, chicks dig a guy who can lay down a perfect bunt. #Raysup 3-2.

And of course everyone digs a three-run bomb, which Logan Forsythe delivered just over the right field wall. 6-2 Rays.

Smyly gave one back in the top of the fifth on a solo shot to Drew Stubbs, but he also struck out two that inning and seemed to be in control.

Brad Miller had a rough moment in the bottom of the fifth. Tagging up on a Souza fly out, he had clearly made it to third base safely but overslid by maybe an inch. An astute Adrian Beltre was able to put down a tag in the half second in which Miller had lost contact with the base, recording the third out of the inning.

Final Three

Cash sent Smyly out in the 7th, and while he got two quick outs, he then walked Ryan Rua and that ended his day. Cash brought in Erasmo Rivero to get Chirinos, but Erasmo walked him on 5 pitches. Interestingly, when he got behind 2-0, Hickey made an uncharacteristic visit to the mound, as though he had concerns about those first two pitches. Erasmo was pulled after the walk, replaced by Cedeno whose job was to get the potentially dangerous Moreland. Cedeno sort of did his job -- Moreland hit weakly into shallow centerfield — but not-Kevin Kiermaier didn’t get to it and it fell for an RBI single. 6-4. Now with the go-ahead run at the plate, the Rays went to Brad Boxberger to face Nomar Mazara, pinch hitting for Delino DeShields. Boxxy delivered with the strike out.

The Rays had to withstand some drama as Boxberger got them through the 8th. Ian Desmond led off with a single and went to second on a ground out. Adrian Beltre then scorched one to deep left field. Mahtook took a few steps forwarded before quickly running back and extending to make the catch. Another ground out ended the threat.

In the bottom of the 8th, Steven Souza Jr. gave us just a bit of breathing space, launching a deep homer to left after a Miller double. That gave the Rays an 8-4 lead.

Concluding Thoughts

  • Texas’ Martin Perez must really hate hotel food, because his home-road splits are among the most extreme I’ve seen for someone with nearly a full season of starts behind him. Before today’s game his home ERA was 2.36, and his road ERA 6.00 (and likely to be higher once his 6 inning 6 run performance today is included).
  • Could Mikie Mahtook be coming out of his slump? No hits today but a few well struck outs and a walk; maybe he’s coming around.
  • I get why Brad Miller is disappointed to be pushed from his shortstop position, but I have to confess I’m relieved to see the smooth fielding Duffy in that role.
  • Nice to see Forsythe back in the line up, and Kiermaier inserted as a late inning defensive replacement (who also reached on an infield hit). And nice to see Drew Smyly continue his string of good starts. Today he went 6.2 innings, striking out 7 and walking one. He was charged with 4 earned runs, but the 7th inning run was only partly his fault. Overall, he pitched well.