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Rays 8, Braves 5: CJ Cron triple shy of cycle

Tommy Pham goes big fly.

Tampa Bay Rays v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Diego Castillo was scheduled to be the opener in the second game of the short series against the Atlanta Braves. The game started approximately 40 minutes late due to rain.

After the first two batters went down the Rays offense went to work. Matt Duffy got on base via the walk. CJ Cron followed with a double putting runners on second and third. Down in the count 0-2 Joey Wendle hit a flair to center off the end of the bat in the matchup against the left handed pitcher Sean Newcomb. The ball found grass and scored two with Wendle going to second on the off target throw home. With Wendle on the move Carlos Gomez singled on a liner to left field to score the third run of the inning.

Castillo got the ball with a three run lead. Much like the Rays half of the inning the first two batters went down quietly for the Braves. Freddie Freeman singled on a soft fly ball in front of Kevin Kiermaier. Nick Markakis followed with a grounder up the middle putting runners at first and second. Then Johan Camargo took a 99.7 mph fastball according to Statcast over the right field wall for a three run homer to tie the game. It is the fastest pitch that has been hit for a homer all year.

So we reset with a tie game with eight innings to go.

In a surprising move Castillo came up to bat with one out and nobody on in the top of the second. There weren’t great options against Newcomb with Jake Bauers, Brandon Lowe, Ji-Man Choi, and Michael Perez as options to pinch hit off the bench. Castillo took all five pitches while looking like he had zero interest in swinging before striking out. Willy Adames and Tommy Pham hit back-to-back singles, but the threat would come to pass as Duffy hit a fly ball to right field that send the defender to the warning track.

Castillo rebounded with a strong second inning picking up two strikeouts and a groundout.

Leading off in the third Cron sent a ball that seemingly went straight up and he audibly yelled an expletive as he put his head down and trotted to first. The ball went almost 400 feet for a homer. Cron got under it with a launch angle of 40 degrees, but had enough strength to get it out of the park easily and put the Rays up 4-3.

Jalen Beeks came in as the bulk guy in the bottom of the frame. Ender Inciarte hit a soft grounder to second base that he was able to beat out. Beeks issued walks to Freeman and Camargo to load the bases with two outs. Beeks induced a soft grounder to the mound off the bat of Ozzie Albies to hold on to the 4-3 lead.

After Beeks struck out leading off the fourth, Adames hit an opposite liner for a single. Tommy Pham hit a strong fly ball to right field that cleared the high wall for the two-run homer to give the Rays a 6-3 lead.

Beeks found himself in trouble once again in the fourth because of walks. Beeks walked the leadoff batter Tyler Flowers. Dansby Swanson followed with a bunt to first base that both Cron and Beeks went for allowing Swanson to win the footrace to first base without a throw. Beeks struck out the pinch hitter Adam Duvall. Beeks got a soft grounder off the bat of Acuna, but Wendle wasn’t able to turn two. The Braves challenged that Wendle never caught the ball, but that’s a difficult call to overturn when the ball is lost when the defender is trying to turn two. The out is upheld. Inciarte flew out harmlessly to center field allowing Beeks to get out of another jam.

Wendle and Gomez hit singles up the middle to start the top of the fifth as the rain really started to fall. Kevin Kiermaier laid down a bunt that got to the pitcher too quickly. Luke Jackson spun and threw to third for the force out, but went off the third basemen’s glove into left field. Wendle came around to score. Jesus Sucre followed the play up with a safety squeeze up the first base line. Jackson once again fielded the bunt, but this time took the free out at first. The Rays extended their lead to 8-3.

Beeks got the first two outs in the fifth as the Rays looked to get the inning in before the rain got too hard to play through. Camargo singled and Albies sent a single to centerfield. Albies got aggressive, but Kiermaier sent the throw to second for the out on the aggressive base running decision to get out of the inning.

The Rays were able to bat in the sixth with Cron picking up a single putting him a triple short of the cycle. The rain was enough to delay the game for over an hour.

Chaz Roe came in after the delay and worked a clean sixth rebounding from the disastrous eighth inning the night before.

After the Rays went down in order in the seventh, Adam Kolarek came in for the bottom of the frame. Kolarek worked around a one out walk to Inciarte. Kolarek induced a soft grounder back to the mound that should’ve been an easy double play, but he spiked the throw to second. Adames was able to pick the throw, but didn’t have enough time to turn two. Kolarek worked around the mistake getting Markakis to line out harmlessly to center.

Andrew Kittredge came in the bottom of the eighth after the Rays struck out in the top of the inning. Carmargo and Flowers hit soft singles to the outfield and Albies and Swanson alternated strikeouts in the frame. Charlie Culberson came in to pinch hit for the pitcher and was jammed, but hit a flair that just landed in fair territory down the right field line scoring a run. Acuna smashed a grounder past a diving Adames for the second run of the inning.

Jose Alvarado came in to put out the fire with the tying run at the plate. Inciarte grounded softly to Cron at first base to end the threat and holding on to the Rays lead 8-5.

With one out Cron hit a ball down the left field line, but was very aggressive on the bases and ran into an out at second. Cron needed a triple and he was never getting it on the play, but it felt like he was going to run for as many bases as he could.

Alvarado worked a clean ninth inning getting Freeman, Markakis, and Camargo to end the game and collect his sixth save of the year.

The Rays split the two game series in Atlanta and head to Cleveland for the first of a three game series starting Friday afternoon.