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Rays vs. White Sox, game one recap: Two hitters support Snell

Sometimes a couple friends, and a few double plays, are all you need.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Chicago White Sox Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

This game was the Kevin Kiermaier and Logan Morrison show. Without those two, we’re right now engaging in the same tired conversations about the Rays getting blanketed by yet another young pitcher who we haven’t heard of.

I mean, we should have heard of Reynaldo Lopez. He’s a prospect. He’s got a heck of a fastball. We should all know by now not to judge players by the ERA of their first 50 innings of pro ball. But feigning ignorance of the opponent is a part of the Rays-bashing script.

I am so glad we had Kiermaier and Morrison, and that we don’t have to follow that script.

Kiermaier led off with a line drive single into center, and then Morrison brought him home with a homer to right. This was the type of home run that if it had been hit by an opposing hitter would have set me onto the thought of “Wow, major league hitters are really scary good.” I can do that for a Morrison too. Why not? Let’s consider it from Lopez’s perspective for a second:

  • First pitch was a fastball in the zone, fouled. That’s a pitch to hit—got away with one, maybe. It was 95 mph, though. Velocity helps.
  • Second pitch was a changeup, too far away, taken.
  • Third pitch was a changeup, right on the bottom-away corner, that Morrison swung through. That’s a good pitch, and I imagine Lopez felt pretty good about himself.
  • Fourth pitch was a 97 mph fastball, thigh-high but a bit outside, taken for a ball. At least it sped up Morrison’s eyes, right?
  • Fifth pitch was an 84 mph changeup, on the outer edge of the plate but elevated. Home run to right.

So what happened? Major. League. Hitter.

I’m sure Lopez wanted that final pitch lower, probably in about the same spot as pitch three. The previous fastball was setting up another changeup down and away. But pitchers don’t always hit their location, and part of the reason for working away is that it’s hard to hit pitches on the outside for power. You keep it outside against a slugger like Logan Morrison when you want to keep him from turning on the ball.

But Morrison saw how he was being pitched so he set his eyes on the outside. Then, when there was a small mistake, he was able to punish it, despite the 13 mph change in speed and the power-sapping, anti-pull location. Welcome to the big leagues, Reynaldo Lopez.

The White Sox pulled one back in the second inning off a Kevan Smith double set up the run to score on a two-out throwing error from Morrison to Blake Snell covering first, which had as much to do with Leury Garcia’s speed out of the box as with any fault of either Snell’s or Morrison’s. But Kiermaier and Morrison pushed the lead back to two runs, in the third inning, when Kiermaier led off with another single and then came home after singles from Evan Longoria and Morrison.


That two-run lead was not always comfortable. Plenty of chances to give it up.

Omar Narvaez hit a chopper to the left side in the fifth inning, which bounced off the end of Longoria’s glove for a leadoff error, and while Adam Engel popped up for the first out of the inning, Yolmer Sanchez pulled a hard grounder through the hole between shortstop and third base to put two men on.

Snell started overthrowing, missing high with a fastball, and then planting a changeup in the dirt. He corrected himself on the next pitch, getting his changeup to a spot just below the zone, but Tim Anderson hit it hard—and one step to the right of Adeiny Hechavarria, who gloved it on the short hop and started a double play.

The next inning was much the same, but with a bit less feeling of danger. Once more, a one-out grounder was hit hard to Hechavarria, who started a double play.

Blake Snell pitched decently, sometimes working ahead of batters, and sometimes falling behind but then doing a good job to compete and get himself back into the at bat. He took advantage of an aggressive Chicago lineup, completing six and two thirds innings on only 85 pitches. But Snell was not dominant. He only struck out one batter over that time.

Double plays help.

The Rays almost got caught in the transition from starter to bullpen. Kevan Smith singled to lead off the seventh, but was erased by yet another 6-4-3 double play. Then Snell walked Narvaez, and manager Kevin Cash pulled him for the righty Steve Cishek to face Engel. Cishek walked him.

Then Cishek and his weird arm angle needed to face Yolmer Sanchez, a lefty. Sanchez pulled the first pitch hard into right field, but Steven Souza Jr. was able to hold the White Sox at their stations. The bases were loaded with two outs for righty Tim Anderson.

That’s a matchup the Rays like, but let’s not say that Cishek got him. Once more, the ball found Hechavarria, this time on a line.

Rays fans get the win they need. I think that White Sox fans will feel a little bit hard done by.

Some other notes:

  • In the bottom of the third inning, Brian Anderson asked Dewayne Staats a very good question: How would you rank Snell’s secondary pitches? This is not actually a simple question. My rank is slider, changeup, curve. I think I’m right, but I think a reasonable person could argue changeup, slider, curve, and maybe even slider, curve, changeup.
  • Kevin Kiermaier, facing a left-handed reliever, struck out to end the top of the seventh inning. “Bummer.”
  • In the ninth inning, Alex Colome threw a wild pitch to each batter that he faced (he retired all three). On the third one, apparently someone in the Rays dugout was giving catcher Wilson Ramos grief about not blocking it, which got Ramos to point to where the ball had hit, several feet in front of the bag. Pretty funny sequence.
  • .500