This was a nice, boring win that got out of hand in a hurry. The good news is, the Rays and Twins gave us some free baseball to tide us over until after the All-Star break. The bad news is, the Twins walked it off in slamtastic fashion, dropping the Rays to 49-47 at the break. On the other bright side, the Rays won 49 games before the break. If you had that in the office pool, you’re a gotdang liar.
First, the (good) boring parts. The Rays greeted 23 year old starter Fernando Romero like they were in a hurry to get the game over with, swinging aggressively early. Both Kiermaier and Robertson going after the first two pitches of the game (both outs). In fact, the young righty had throw only fourteen pitches while setting down the first five Rays in order.
But with two outs in the second, the Rays got a singles parade going. It started innocuously enough, when Carlos Gomez “beat the shift” by grounding a 1-1 changeup to center. Mallex Smith followed by hitting the slowest of slow rollers through the middle that somehow made it through, pushing Gomez to third. Adeiny Hechavarria followed, going with a 2-2 fastball and lining it into right for an RBI single. Mallex Smith, who had broken on the pitch, hestiated briefly rounding second — maybe to make sure the ball wasn’t caught, or maybe because he lost Florida from ‘round his neck — motored in to third. Jesus Sucre drove in Smith by lining a first pitch fastball to the opposite field for yet another single.
Then Kevin Kiermaier made it five consecutive two-out singles by hooking one into the hole between first and second, scoring Hech.
On the Rays side, Opener Ryne Stanek was the first of nine Rays to take the hill. He would do the bulk of the heavy lifting, logging two (TWO!) entire innings.
The Twins got to Ryne Stanhiser in the second, and for a long time it looked like it would be their only run. After Ryne set down the side in order in the first, Jorge Polanco lined a fastball off a greedy fan along the right field line for a double. A single by Grossman plated Polanco, thus ending Stanek’s run of scoreless starts at nine. Stanek rebounded to get Jake “that can’t be your real name...” Cave on strikes.
Newly acquired lefty Hoby Milner — all 6’ 2”, 165 lbs of him — came on start the third and worked to three hitters. Using an approach that was more slinging than pitching, he walked righty Mitch Garver before coming back to strike out Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario. Both left handed hitters had huge problems picking up the ball, most likely because when Milner turned sideways he basically disappeared, making it appear as if that baseball materialized out of the ether. Plus, the slider from the low three-quarters slot was pretty nasty.
Welcome to the club!— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 15, 2018
...Here put this on and go warm up. pic.twitter.com/dYLxk7vYhT
Andrew Kittredge retired Brian Dozier to end the inning while I was looking up how to spell ether.
In the fifth, after a DRob HBP and a Crom single to right, Joey Wendle followed by slashing a liner the other way that kept carrying over the head of Edwin Rosario for a double.
That was it for Romero. Enter Twins closer Fernando Rodney.
No, that was definitely Rodney, who promptly buzzed the tower on Carlos Gomez. Gomez wasn’t fazed by the chin music, though, taking healthy cuts throughout a nice nine-pitch at bat before finally whiffing on a changeup. Mallex grounded out to end the inning.
Kevin Kiermaier did a thing in the bottom of fifth.
Molitor continued to Rays his bullpen and work backwards, with setup guy Ryan Presly pitching a clean 6th.
Ryan Yarborough had followed Kittredge mostly without incident, and things were still going smoothly as Adam Kolarek took over. But the lefty gave up three singles in the seventh, the last to Rosario on an ill-advised 3-2 fastball after Rosario had looked bad on the slider, allowing the Twins to make it a 4-2 game. Enter Diego Castillo with two out to try and put out the fire.
Castillo had seemed to have trouble finding his release point as the count worked to 3-2. Then things went haywire.
Dozier grounded one up the third base line. Daniel Robertson made a great play deep behind the bag, but had zero chance to get Dozier at first. But rather than eat the ball, Robertson threw it anyway. Cron fielded the late throw on a hop as he came off the bag, then made a return throw to Hechavarria covering third base in an attempt to get the advancing Rosario. Unfortunately, the throw was wide and into left field. When the dust settled, Rosario had scored the tying run and Dozier was on third.
Oh, but it gets weirder. With the Rays shifted, Dozier bluffed going home and Castillo balked. 5-4 Twins. Brian Dozier (maybe?) celebrated a bit too much? I dunno, it looked fine to me. Then Castillo yanked a pitch to the backstop, and more feeling got hurt, and players and coaches yelled, and bullpens emptied, and I don’t even know. Castillo then fanned Escobar, and there was more pointing and yelling. Escobar was eventually ejected, and I’m still not entirely sure what anybody was mad about. It was, as one of my Slack companions said, the most passive-aggressive brawl you’ll ever see.
With two outs in the eighth, Matt Duffy pinch hit for Mallex Smith against Twins not-closer Taylor Rogers. Rogers was promptly lifted for also not-closer Trevor Hildenberger. Duffy responded by ripping a (checks notes) soft grounder to Brian Dozier for an infield single. Hechavarria followed with a walk, and then Jesus Sucre collected his third hit of the day on a double into the left-center field gap, chasing both runners in.
Castillo walked the first two hitters in the bottom of the eighth, because this game, man. That was it for him. Enter Hunter Wood, who threw one pitch to Robbie Grossman. Grossman dropped a sac bunt to push both runners up into scoring position. A no-pitch free pass to Cave loaded the bases, and Cash called on Sergio Romo for the five out save.
Romo threw bendy thing after bendy thing to Mitch Garver before finally striking him out on a 3-2 slider for the second out. But Sergio couldn’t replicate the act against Joe Mauer, as the tight zone caught up with him. A four pitch walk scored the tying run without a hit.
Rosario followed by singling to center, scoring the go-ahead run. Jake Cave also tried to score on the play, but was called on a bullet by KK. A long review followed, but the call stood thanks a nice job by Sucre to block (the) Cave. But still, 7-6 Twins, with one shot left. Also, Sucre, our only catcher today by the way, looked to have turned his ankle on the play.
With not-closer Hildenberger still working, Robertson started the ninth inning rally with a single to center, because why not? After a Bauers pop out, DRob then swiped second. We got a thing!
Cron worked a full count before grounding to Dozier. DRob moved up to third. It would be up to Mr. Joey Wendle to save the day. Joey responded by lining a change up away into center. Robertson scored, with Wendle moving up to second when center fielder Cave booted it.
In the words of Doug Waechter: ˆAre you kidding me?”
That was it for Hildenberger as Molitor made the move for something called a Busenitz? Buse walked Gomez, but got Duffy to ground out.
Le sigh. Free baseball on bullpen day is no bueno.
The Twins threatened in the ninth against Matt Andriese, and the Rays threatened in the top of the tenth against (checks notes) oh still Busenitz, but to no avail for either side.
Jake Cave double to right to start the bottom of the tenth. A nice sac bunt by Garver moved Cave up to third with one out. Cash then intentionally walked both Mauer and Rosario, and brought in Joey Wendle from left field to be the fifth infielder with Brian Dozier at the plate.
No need for the infielders though. Or the outfielders. Dozier has had enough of this bullshit, and walks it off with a slam.
- C.J. Cron broke out his pitching wedge in the third, lofting a very shallow infield pop behind the pitcher and in front of short stop for an infield single. He then tried the baseball gods’ patience by attempting to steal second. He was out by plenty on a terrible throw but brilliant tag by Polanco.
- The Daniel Robertson hit by pitch drilled him in the back between the two and the eight, making him the third Ray this year to reach double figures in HPBs. That seems — excessive?