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Rays 9, Yankees 6: Do not go gentle into that good night

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

When I saw today’s lineup I figured we were headed for another game in which the Rays offense was AWOL.

Against the tough righty Sonny Gray, Logan Morrison and Kevin Kiermaier were resting. The outfield was Puello-Bourjos-Smith, not the trio you were imagining watching in late September.

So of course the Rays hitters exploded. They batted around in a seven-run fifth inning. Cesar Puello and Peter Bourjos knocked in runs. The much-maligned and seldom used Trevor Plouffe even hit a pinch hit home run.

In a 9-6 slugest that lasted three and a half hours we had a little bit of everything. There were home runs — seven altogether, four for the Yankees and three for the Rays. There were small-ballish singles, some slick double plays, an outfield assist at the plate. There were walks, a lot of walks, really too many walks (eleven if you were counting). There were hit by pitches and wild pitches and passed balls, some of which scored runs.

Jacob Faria, in his first start since a DL stint derailed his rookie campaign, pitched three forgettable innings. I assume he was pulled after three by plan. He didn’t look sharp, throwing a lot of balls and yielding three runs, two on back-to-back shots to right by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge to start the game. But neither was he awful.

Sonny Gray looked similarly unsharp for the Yankees. In his 4.2 innings he gave up five walks en route to yielding six runs. He had a (run scoring) wild pitch and a (run scoring) passed ball on a pitch in the dirt. If this is his tune-up before the playoffs I think it is fair to say it didn’t go well.

But by the end those starting pitchers were long forgotten, as we saw ten relievers, with Chih-Wei Hu credited with the win for his one inning.

Finally, we were treated to a mid-game interview with Alex Cobb. I was looking forward to this because Cobb is a thoughtful and articulate baseball guy who is almost certain to be pitching elsewhere next season. But the interview was disappointing.

First, Steven Souza Jr kept throwing sunflower seeds at him, which by now is a baseball broadcast cliche that should really be retired. Then, Dewayne Staats somehow managed to turn the interview into a riff on the good old days of pitcher wins instead of these new-fangled stats (it was in response to Cobb’s claim that he tried to simplify his approach to focus on winning the game for the team rather than worrying about his individual performance metrics).

Also, Cobb might want to rethink the new mustache.

Three games to go: what to look for?

With the Rays in the final days of a disappointing season, what can we look for in their remaining games?

I will be happy to see a lot of Mallex Smith. His speed and energy make him a fun guy to watch, but I am not fully convinced he is really a baseball player. There is an awkwardness to some of his swings, and even on defense ,where he speed is an obvious plus, his weak arm and sometimes interesting routes make me wonder whether he can even reach his expected fourth outfielder potential. But he seems like an all around wonderful young guy who does manage to find ways to get on base, so giving him more major league playing time at this low stakes moment would seem to be worthwhile.

Seeing Wilson Ramos hit a two-run homer, and then nail a runner at second, made clear that a full season of a healthy Buffalo will be an asset in 2018. Indeed, one of 2017’s pleasant surprises has been strong play by Jesus Sucre, which means the Rays will go into next season with real talent in the catcher spot. I’ve been watching the Rays now for some twelve years and I think this is the first off-season which upgrading at catcher is not the top priority.