The Rays played their 41st one-run game of the 2018 season on Monday night, and it was yet another wild one. Maybe the wildest one yet.
The action started earlier, as Jake Bauers got the Rays on the board in the very first inning, nearly taking Luis Severino deep, clipping the top of the wall and settling for a two-out double. However, when Severino and Gary Sanchez got mixed up, Bauers decided to take advantage of Sanchez lollygagging after the passed ball, Enos Slaughter-ing his way all the way around from second base to score the first run of the game. It was a great heads-up play by a secretly fast rookie who knew (or at least, thought) the Rays would be hard-pressed for runs against the Yankees ace and figured he would take matters into his own hands. Oh, and that lack of hustle from Sanchez - remember that for later.
That’s a little thing called foreshadowing.
For the Rays, they countered the Yankees ace with an “Opener,” Hunter Wood this time, and he gave up one run, but it was hardly deserved, as Giancarlo “doubled” and later scored, but it was Kevin Kiermaier losing the ball in the Tropicana ceiling that saw Stanton get on base at all.
This was the 24th appearance of The Opener, and though the results aren’t even close to significant yet (honestly, with the limited-innings nature of the experiment, it will be tough to ever really, statistically, know), the numbers are beginning to look pretty:
|4/8/18||Andrew Kittredge||2.00||8||1||1||2||0||4.50||1.000||L 7-8 @BOS|
|5/4/18||Andrew Kittredge||2.00||9||1||1||2||1||4.50||1.500||W 6-2 TOR|
|5/19/18||Sergio Romo||1.00||3||0||3||0||0||0.00||0.000||W 5-3 @LAA|
|5/20/18||Sergio Romo||1.33||6||0||3||0||2||0.00||1.500||L 2-5 @LAA|
|5/25/18||Sergio Romo||0.67||5||1||1||2||0||13.51||3.003||L 0-2 BAL|
|5/26/18||Ryne Stanek||1.67||5||0||3||0||0||0.00||0.000||W 5-1 BAL|
|5/27/18||Sergio Romo||0.33||4||3||0||2||1||81.08||9.009||W 8-3 BAL|
|5/31/18||Ryne Stanek||1.33||6||2||0||1||1||13.50||1.500||L 3-7 @OAK|
|6/1/18||Sergio Romo||1.33||5||0||0||0||1||0.00||0.750||L 3-4 @SEA|
|6/6/18||Jonny Venters||0.33||6||5||1||3||2||135.14||15.015||L 2-11 @WAS|
|6/7/18||Ryne Stanek||1.00||6||0||2||1||2||0.00||3.000||L 4-5 SEA|
|6/12/18||Ryne Stanek||2.00||6||0||3||0||0||0.00||0.000||W 4-1 TOR|
|6/16/18||Ryne Stanek||1.33||5||0||1||1||0||0.00||0.750||L 1-4 @NYY|
|6/18/18||Ryne Stanek||1.67||5||0||0||0||0||0.00||0.000||L 4-5 @HOU|
|6/22/18||Ryne Stanek||1.00||5||0||1||1||1||0.00||2.000||W 2-1 NYY|
|6/28/18||Ryne Stanek||1.67||7||0||3||0||2||0.00||1.200||L 0-1 HOU|
|6/30/18||Ryne Stanek||1.00||4||0||2||1||0||0.00||1.000||W 5-2 HOU|
|7/4/18||Matt Andriese||2.00||9||0||3||1||2||0.00||1.500||L 0-3 @MIA|
|7/6/18||Ryne Stanek||2.00||8||0||4||1||1||0.00||1.000||L 1-5 @NYM|
|7/10/18||Ryne Stanek||2.00||7||0||2||1||0||0.00||0.500||W 5-2 DET|
|7/11/18||Hunter Wood||1.00||5||0||2||2||0||0.00||2.000||W 4-2 DET|
|7/15/18||Ryne Stanek||2.00||8||1||3||2||0||4.50||1.000||L 7-11 @MIN|
|7/21/18||Ryne Stanek||1.00||5||0||1||1||1||0.00||2.000||L 2-3 MIA|
|7/23/18||Hunter Wood||2.00||9||1||2||2||1||4.50||1.500||W 7-6 NYY|
After Wood, it was Matt Andriese who came in as the tweener (middler? piggybacker? headliner?), and he looked excellent, going 3.2 innings, allowing just three hits, and striking out five. He kept the game tied through the fifth, when the Rays jumped ahead thanks to their own little Severino antidote.
Before tonight, here were Severino’s numbers against the Rays for his career:
7-1, 2.38 ERA, 56.2 IP, 71 SO
Even this season, he had their number, going 2-0 with just two runs allowed over 15.1 innings. But in his last start against the Rays, one hitter had his numbers, with Jake Bauers reaching base two of his three times up against the Yanks ace.
He continued that success Monday with his first-inning double, and expounded on it even further with a moonshot of a dinger in the fifth, putting the Rays up 4-1.
The madness was just beginning, though, as a two-out error from Daniel Robertson in the top of the sixth opened a mini floodgate, and the Yankees cut the lead to one off Diego Castillo.
D-Rob wasn’t going to let the bitter taste stay in his mouth for long, though, as he took Severino deep to right-center for an opposite field home run on the first pitch of the bottom half of the inning, and the Rays were only just getting started.
Mallex Smith doubled, Willy Adames singled, and the Rays chased Severino after allowing double-digit hits for the first time since April 8… 2016! Jesus Sucre (single) and Matt Duffy (fielder’s choice) chipped in to get the lead to 7-3, and the Rays were feeling good about themselves.
That’s when home plate umpire, Mike Winters, went into the clubhouse, changed into pinstripes and decided to become the best player the Yankees had all night.
Now, I make it a priority not to complain about umpires 999 times out of 1,000. But Winters was on one Monday night. To the point that the DRB staff was legitimately wondering whether he was concussed from an early foul ball that caught him in the dome. We weren’t the only ones to notice some, um interesting, calls.
That 2-strike curveball was strike 3 pic.twitter.com/FyvEpOn69M— Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) July 24, 2018
Mike Winters is seriously just guessing at this point. Pitch 3 was 2 baseballs off the plate Eric Gregg (may he rest in peace) would be proud pic.twitter.com/92hjuTucTW— Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) July 24, 2018
The Rays pitchers weren’t doing themselves any favors either. The team sent four different pitchers out in the seventh, as Castillo walked two, Jaime Schultz walked the only batter he faced, Adam Kolarek got a ground out, and then Ryne Stanek allowed a two-run single before retiring Aaron Hicks on a pitch that Winters had been calling a ball all inning. When everything was said and done, the Rays left the seventh clinging to a 7-6 lead. It’s funny that the Rays and Yankees had combined for 13 runs, because that’s the exact number of ulcers I developed watching this game.
The bottom of the seventh, along with all of the eighth, went pretty quietly, but that’s only because the game was saving up its truly craziest for the ninth.
Jose Alvarado got the final out of the eighth, and with Sergio Romo out with the flu, our favorite hefty lefty remained in the game to close it out. Of course Brett Gardner had to be the leadoff hitter, and of course he had to reach on an infield hit. With Aaron Judge coming to the plate, it almost felt like an inevitable loss already. Judge walked, but then Aaron Boone and the Yankees decided to hand the Rays a gift. Didi Gregorius lay down a bunt, which in theory was great, it got the runners to second and third with just one out. But what it really meant was that the Rays had an excuse to intentionally walk Giancarlo Stanton who came into the game slashing .343/.382/.557 this month and had reached base each of his past ten plate appearances against the Rays. It set up the double play opportunity, and it allowed Alvarado a chance to reset. Hicks very nearly acquiesced, grounding a ball to Matt Duffy at third base, who decided to go to home for the safe out, instead of attempting to turn two, which would have been very close with Hicks’ speed.
All that led to a bases-loaded, two-outs, Gary Sanchez-vs-Jose Alvarado at bat to end the game. And somehow, the weirdest (and most poetic) part of the game still hadn’t happened. With the count 1-1, Sanchez grounded a ball to the left of second base, but because of the shift, Robertson, nominally the second baseman, made the play. Then, for some reason, D-Rob flipped to Adames, the shortstop, who had to come even further across the diamond to reach second base, and as such Hicks beat the throw. And it certainly seemed as though the Yankees had tied the game.
But then Adames, who displayed unreal awareness for a rookie in this situation, seemed to realize it was Sanchez, he of the no hustle, making his way to first base, and he fired over, getting the final out of an absolutely absurd game. Ball game, Rays.
If that doesn’t entirely make sense, that’s because I have legitimately never seen a game end that way. Here are some moving images to help you digest.
Instincts and effort.— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 24, 2018
Willy's got plenty of both. pic.twitter.com/G7gNXFsjoi
In a season of wild wins, that one has to rank up there with the best of the best. The Rays good vibes won’t last forever — that’s the beauty of a 162-game season — but a walkoff grand slam Sunday, and the Shaq-sized schadenfreude we’ll be able to enjoy for the next 24 hours, back-to-back nights is the type of thing that makes this sport the best in the world.