Well, that was a pretty perfect way to start the season, huh?
The Rays looked as lifeless as a Westworld robot for the first seven innings, but in the words of The Joker: It was all part of a plan. (I’m riding so high that I can manage to squeeze not just one but TWO forced pop culture references into a sentence right now!)
Things didn’t start off so hot for the Rays, as a J.D. Martinez walk, a rocketed double off the bat of Xander Bogaerts and then a miscommunication between Denard Span and Kevin Kiermaier found the Rays in a quick 3-0 hole.
This misplay looked to be mostly Span’s fault, which is going to be a really fun plot point in about five paragraphs.
Archer settled down after his three-run third (all three were earned, but he should have been held accountable for only two of them), but the Rays couldn’t muster anything off Sale while he was in the game.
Through six innings, both pitchers were cruising, and the score held 3-0 in favor of Boston.
Kevin Cash decided to send Chris Archer out for the seventh, probably the right decision given Archer’s low pitch count (under 80 pitches), but it didn’t take long for him to regret that decision, as Bogaerts and Rafael Devers tagged back-to-back doubles to extend the Boston lead out to four and chase Archer from the game.
Austin Pruitt got the call, and he shut the door with aplomb, keeping the margin at four.
Perhaps scared off because of what he had just seen from the Rays starter in the seventh, new Red Sox manager Alex Cora decided to pull Sale despite the lanky lefty sitting below 100 pitches (92, to be exact).
That decision appeared wise in the seventh, as the Rays went down in order. Pruitt traded a clean top of the eighth, giving the Rays six outs to make their push. And given that Craig Kimbrel has re-established himself as one of the elite pitchers in baseball, it really seemed as though the bottom of the eighth was going to be the time to make a move.
And the Rays clearly knew that. Daniel Robertson started the inning off with the walk, and set the tone for a patient approach all inning from Tampa Bay. After a Mighty Rob Refsnyder (that’s what I’m calling our DH this season) strikeout, Matt Duffy went the other way with a fastball and drove in the first Rays run of the year. Then it was Kiermaier’s turn to draw a free pass, and Carlos Gomez, he of the notorious free-swinging style, followed suit, loading up the bases. After Cora decided to pull Joe Kelly, Carson Smith came in and walked Brad Miller, since he must have thought what Kelly was doing looked so fun.
A Wilson Ramos strikeout set up almost too perfect of a situation. Bases loaded, Sox up two, two outs, Span, the hometown kid who had made the costly error earlier in the game, up at the dish. Somewhere J.K. Rowling was shaking her head saying, “Nah, that’s a bit too scripted.”
Lo and behold, the Baseball Gods were watching, and they must hate the Red Sox as much as we do. Span pulled a bases-clearing triple down the right field line, pulling into third base with a look of happiness that I want to bottle and drink first thing when I wake up every day.
A bouncer over the mound from Adeiny Hechavarria brought home Span… In more ways than one.
Alex Colome gave up a hard-hit double to Nunez in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough, as the Rays moved to 1-0 on the season. A most glorious 1-0.
For Rays fans, it honestly doesn’t get better than beating the Red Sox - and their filthy ace - on Opening Day after an offseason of obnoxious hot takes from all over the national landscape. Hopefully this will shut them up for a while.
And if not, this win should keep you feeling warm inside for a long time, regardless. Send in the fiddle cats.
If you want a more blow-by-blow, how-it-felt-in-the-moment recap of this amazing Opening Day win, check out our experimental live updating Game Day Thread from earlier today.