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Rays 9, Orioles 5: This offense cannot be contained

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Obviously.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Just like we’ve always said, this 2018 Rays team is going to win because of their offense. They’re going to hit for average, they’re going to hit for power, and they’re going to take their walks. This offense is just so deep throughout the order, and can beat you in so many ways. Yes, that’s exactly what we’ve been saying.

Now the offensive juggernaut has scored eight runs in five consecutive games. That type of streak doesn’t happen very often.

Denard Span led off the game with a full count walk, taking some very close pitches, including ball four just off the plate by his hands. That payed off immediately when C.J. Cron jumped a 2-0 fastball down and in, right at or below the bottom of the zone. It didn’t look like a home run by the pitch location and the swing, but it was, and easily so. Cron is an extreme low-ball hitter. On swings like this it really shows.

The Rays offense went right back to work in the second inning, when Joey Wendle got his bat to a fastball high and out of the zone and lined it over Many Machado’s head, cruising into second for a hustle double (contradiction alert, but when you’re fast like Wendle is, and hustle early out of the box, you can cruise late). Then Wilson Ramos crushed a fastball on the inside to stretch the lead to 4-0. This was good to see, because while Ramos is immensly strong and when he can get his arms extended, inside fastballs aren’t really his wheelhouse. No trouble on this one, though.

While the first two innings power showcases for the Rays power hitters, inning number three was all about placement. Carlos Gomez lined a breaking ball hard to third, where Danny Calencia couldn’t handle the bounce. Brad Miller chopped a slow groundball through the hole on the right side, and Gomez went first-to-third.Brad Miller brought Gomez home, with a groundball that found its way into left field. Wendle hit what looked to be a 5-4-3 double play ball, but was able to beat out the throw. That mattered because Ramos bounced yet another chopper through the hole, this time by third, to put the Rays up 5-0.

Failure to Run Away With It

At this point the game could have been over. Five runs already in the book, Dylan Bundy looking shaky, and Chris Archer, the Rays number one, on the mound for Tampa Bay. Turn off the TV, go home, right?

lol

Anthony Santander lead off the bottom of the third with a grounder to Adeiny Hechavarria. The throw to first was offline, but Cron made a good play to go get it, and then find his way back to the bag. The next play was a sharp grounder to short that Hech couldn’t quite handle, and settled for knocking down. Caleb Joseph, who runs very well for a catcher, beat out the throw. That play was scored a hit. A line drive double from Trey Mancini, a walk from Jace Peterson, and a single from Manny Machado brought the Orioles back into the game, at 6-2.

The Rays tacked on another two runs in the fifth, off hits from Miller, Wendle, and Mallex Smith, knocking Bundy out of the game in the process, but the Orioles got it right back in the bottom of the inning, when Adam Jones caught up to a high fastball.

Then, with the game still within reach at 8-4, Kevin Cash sent Chris Archer back out for the bottom of the sixth inning. Archer was already at 99 pitches. It was the bottom of the order, for the third time. You can see what happened two different ways.

  1. A pitcher who shouldn’t have been out there any more got knocked around, giving up two hits before getting a flyball out. It was predictable. Luckily, the bullpen saved the day. Chaz Roe induced an inning-ending double play on only his second pitch. This is what bullpens are for.
  2. A starting pitcher’s job is to go deep into games. Working against the bottom of the opposing lineup, with a four run lead, the starter was given the chance too help his team out down the road by working longer. Two groundballs found holes in the infield, one of them barely so.Luckily, the bullpen saved the day. Chaz Roe induced an inning-ending double play on only his second pitch. This is what bullpens are for.

Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Serio Romo, and Alex Colome closed out the last 3.2 innings of the game. Except for Alvarado, they all put men on base. They got double plays when they needed them, though. While Danny Valencia caught Romo for a solo home run in the bottom of the eigth, Gomez manufactured an insurance run in the top of the ninth, doubling, stealing third, and then coming home on an errant throw.

This one didn’t come easy, but the Rays offense is alive, and six game winning steaks are fun.

Some other notes:

  • In the top of the third inning, Hechavarria hit a sharp line drive down the third base line, straight at Ramos, who was standing in foul territtory. Ramos managed to turn so it hit him in the back. He looked pretty unhappy with the fright, though, demonstratively gesturing to “hit it fair, not at me” afterwards.
  • There was an odd, shift-induced play in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, Peterson at second base, Machado at first, and Chris Davis up, the Rays played their normal shift, but kept Daniel Robertson within covering distance of third base to keep Peterson from coasting into third. But when the count went full, Robertson no longer needed to hold, and so trotted to the center of the field. Since the outcomes of the next pitch were either a walk, a strikeout, a hit, or a foul, there would be no throw from the catcher to third. It became solely Archer’s responsibility to keep the runner honest. But Peterson noticed Archer not paying enough attention, and as Archer adjusted his hat, he took off. When Archer realized, the race was on. Peterson won, just barely, as they both dove for the bag. It was high drama. Then Archer struck out Chris Davis to make it all moot.
  • When mlb.tv came back early from commercial, we got to hear Brian Anderson say (before his mic was supposed to be live), in a somewhat peeved voice, “Well, I actually think this team’s trying to win.” I’d love to know who he was talking to.
  • Mallex Smith faced Brad Brach to open the eigth inning. He hit the ball straight down, making a high chop that seemed sure to be an infield hit. But Brach got under it, barehanded the catch and smoothly and threw him out. It was a fantastic play. That’s why you don’t try the Baltimor Chop in Baltimore. They’re ready for it there.
  • Brad Brach is a good pitcher. Everyone’s on the Manny Machado trade watch, but I have to imagine that Brach’s days in Baltimore are also numbered. He’ll make someone better.
  • Neither Span nor Gomez will yield to Mallex Smith in the outfield. Given his problems tracking the ball, and their history as center fielders, I think that’s a fine arrangement, as long as everyone knows who’s got it.
  • Chris Archer’s changeup was alive and well tonight. He threw 19 of them to lefties, and I’m pretty sure Chris Davis swung at and missed on every single one.
  • Regarding Archer’s two-seam fastball usage, I counted at least three pitches that should probably be categorized as sinkers. But reexamining Archer’s past performances, this may not be new. Classification can be tricky sometimes, especially between fastballs, as there’s often a spectrum of movement and spin, rather than clear discreet buckets. Archer may have been throwing a small amount of two-seam fastballs with armside run significantly higher than that of his four-seam fastball all along. Hold this thought.