After a history-making night for Evan Longoria and the Rays on Tuesday, Tampa Bay had to contend with Astros’ ace Dallas Kuechel on Wednesday night. In the middle of a tough road trip in a very tough segment of the schedule and in a very, VERY important playoff-stretch run, the Rays needed a follow-up win to build on. They just needed to beat the best team in the American League.
They did just that.
LoMo Cracks Kuechel
What do you do as a left-handed hitter against a very good lefty pitcher who takes the mound at Minute Maid Park with a home ERA of 1.04 and positive lefty splits?
Swing away, that’s what!
That’s exactly what Logan Morrison did in the top of the first inning against one of the most dominant left handed pitchers over the past two seasons. Morrison got ahead in the count 1-0 and Kuechel came at him with a pretty good curveball. The problem with it was that it was right on plane with Morrison’s powerful swing. With Trevor Plouffe on first ahead of him, LoMo shot that offering right into the right field bullpen to give the Rays the 2-0 lead and, eventually, the game winning runs!
The visible elation on Morrison’s face after hitting his 28th homer of the year was a good sign, hopefully, for the morale and feeling in that Rays’ clubhouse in the midst of the aforementioned tough stretch, especially considering the results this team has had of late.
Austin Pruitt’s Homecoming
It’s something we’ve all dreamed about: making the big leagues and playing in the ballpark you visited all the time as a kid in front of your family and friends.
Austin Pruitt got to live out that dream on Wednesday night, and he made the most of that opportunity!
The Texas-native, making his third start of the year after working mostly out of the bullpen, has had his ups and downs this year but showed marked improvement in his last start against the Yankees, but drew the tough number of going up against a nearly perfect Masahiro Tanaka.
On Wednesday night, he went pitch for pitch against the All-Star Dallas Kuechel, outlasting him 6.1 innings to just five innings for the Astros’ star. He struck out only three batters, but only gave up one walk and scattered five hits over those 6.1 innings. He got a ton of mishit balls and kept his pitch count low as the Astros took a very aggressive approach against him. In fact, all five of Houston’s hits were leadoff hits. While they never got more than one baserunner on against Pruitt in an inning, it’s certainly less than ideal to put the leadoff man on in five out of six innings. That’s a little BABIP luck playing in his favor, but not an odd I’d be willing to bet much of anything on past this game.
On the whole, though, what a great performance to put on in front of your hometown crowd and your 200+ family and friends cheering in the stands. Have yourself a night, Austin!
· Corey Dickerson appears to be clear of his second-half slump, going 2-for-5 leading off against Kuechel (a game-time decision after the second consecutive scratch of Steven Souza Jr. with a foot injury). He would have been 3-for-5 if not for Jose Altuve being really good at this whole baseball thing…
· Speaking of Souza, the injury doesn’t appear to be serious, as he was dressed and presumably available off the bench again tonight.
· Alex Colome worked the ninth inning again Wednesday, locking down his AL-best 32nd save of the year. That alone is impressive considering how interesting he’s made some games in the ninth this year.
· Adeiny Hechavarria continues to impress defensively, and is making a case for team MVP in his short time here, alongside Dickerson.
· Can’t take the foot off the gas pedal tomorrow. After stealing the Kuechel start, TB need to take another W to claim the series.