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Rays at Astros, Game 127 Recap; Terrible First, Ninth Innings Doom Rays

A lot of good work done in the middle seven innings were all for naught after dismal first and ninth inning performances.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Two innings.

That was the difference in Friday night's bitter pill loss to the Houston Astros.

Two innings.

After closing out a successful home-stand with back-to-back wins over the rival Boston Red Sox, wins that were hard-fought, grinded out, and earned, this team couldn't put it together for two innings.

The first inning was a combination of mistakes and misplaced bravado.

One of the oldest adages in baseball warns of leadoff walks and how they tend to hurt later on. Drew Smyly was reminded of that in the first inning Friday night. He walked his first opposing hitter, George Springer, who quickly put himself into scoring position with a steal of second base. Springer advanced to third on a base hit by Astros' rookie Alex Bregman, which brought the MLB batting leader and AL MVP candidate Jose Altuve to the dish.

Altuve proceeded to hit a hard ground ball to the hole at shortstop. Evan Longoria was shaded in that direction and made the pickup, but because the ball was just far enough to the left of third base and just deep enough to short, was unable to hold Springer, who would score. Longo traded the run for the out at second, but what would have been a routine double play ball on most any other hitter in the league was anything but with the speedy Altuve, who beat the throw from second by a step and a half.

This is where the Rays' unearned swagger cost them.

In an attempt to hold Altuve at first, Smyly threw over to first baseman Brad Miller. The feed was a bit low, but certainly playable by any MLB first baseman. Miller, however, made only half an effort to get to the throw which bounded to wall behind first, allowing Altuve to get to second. I wish the play ended there. Miller picked the ball up and, assuming that Altuve would hold at second base, lollipopped the throw back to the pitcher. The Astros' second baseman took advantage of napping Rays' defense and got to third before scoring on Evan Gattis's base hit to center.

These mental errors made Drew Smyly throw over 30 pitches in the first inning. The loss can't be pinned to the Rays' starter who, after allowing a second inning home run to Jake Marisnick, retired 14 straight hitters before departing after the sixth. Over his six innings he K'd eight hitters with only two walks to his name. Smyly pitched well enough for the win, but it wasn't to be.

The Rays did claw their way back to tie the game on three runs by Corey Dickerson in the innings bookended by the debacle innings. Dickerson hit three doubles while going 3-for-4 on the night, and scored two runs on wild pitches by Astros' starter Mike Fiers, who had three wild pitches in this game, once in the third and again in the fifth. In the seventh, Dickerson hit his third double, scoring Logan Morrison and tying the game, where it remained 3-3 until the top of the ninth.

Mikie Mahtook was one half-inning away from being a hero.

His first home run of the season came in the top of the ninth inning, with two gone in a tie ball game. Mahtook got a belt-high fastball and launched it over the iconic train tracks in left at Minute Maid Park, and set the Rays up for another late-inning rally win.

Until Alex Colome gave the game back to Houston in a big way.

Colome's first pitch, a fastball called for down and away that missed up and over the plate, was sent over the wall in right field by Carlos Correa to immediately tie the game.

The very next hitter, El Oso Blanco, Evan Gattis, made sure extra innings weren't needed.

He fought Colome to take the count full before launching a pitch that was high into the seats in left field for the walk off victory.

A long, painful first inning and a very quick, crushing ninth inning doomed the Rays and their battle-back efforts in the seven innings that were sandwiched in between.

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
1 DFAHowell Bullpen from hell
1 TBRaysfan009 Just have to say, regardless how good or bad Bobby Wilson is at anything else,
1 Rays1118 im just glad Desmond Jennings is gone