Y’all, if the Rays do cash in their miracle, tonight’s 2-1 loss to the Oakland A’s means things are gonna have to get a whole lot more miracleier. And while I am not a fan to give up until Elimination number reads E, I do want to say that, whether we play in October or not, we still got us some playoff baseball this year. I know because I just watched a playoff game. And it was glorious, even if we did end up on the short end.
Diego Castillo made quick work of the A’s in the first. He came out throwing smoke, pumping in three heaters at or close to 100 mph to get ahead 1-2 before finishing Nick Martini off with a slider below the zone. He followed that by getting ahead of Matt Chapman with another 100 mph fastball, then got him to chase two sliders off the plate for a three pitch K. Castillo then challenged Jed Lowrie with a 1-1 fastball that ended in a routine fly to center.
Edwin “Secret Agent Man” Jackson took the hill for Oakland, and induced Mallex Smith to pop one to shallow right. But Mallex hit it just soft enough to drop in front of Piscotty. Unfortunately, Smith’s luck didn’t hold. He broke for second on the 1-0 pitch, and had a great jump, but was caught on brilliant throw and tag from Lucroy to Semien. A ground out from Duffy and a foul pop from Ji-man Choi ended the inning.
Castillo went back out for the second and worked carefully to Khris Davis, sticking with mostly breaking balls on the edges before getting Davis to line out to right on 101 up. He finished Matt Olson quickly, getting ahead with 101, then getting a called slider at the bottom of the zone, and swinging strike three below the zone.
Sometimes it's 101, sometimes it's not. pic.twitter.com/52asnGqkyQ— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 14, 2018
Castillo got ahead of Stephen Piscotty 0-2 before the Oakland outfield settled in for a relatively long at bat, finally getting the chase on the slider off the plate on the ninth pitch of the sequence. All in all, it a was brilliant performance by the Rays opener.
The second inning saw the Rays go in order, but featured a fun conversation between Brian Anderson and Rich Hollenberg about the infectious enthusiasm of the 2018 Rays.
BA: This team, they just want to get to Omaha!
Hollenberg: Not Williamsport?
BA: They’re a little above that.
It was a bit of a surprise when Ryne Stanek took over to face the bottom of the order instead of Ryan Yarbrough. A fly to right, a walk, and a well executed 5-4-3 double play made Kevin Cash look like genius.
Nick Ciuffo worked a walk in third, but that was it, as Edwin Jackson continued to work hard not to blow his cover.
Yarby took over in the fourth against the top of the order, and Oakland manager Bob Melvin was aggressive with his bench, sending up Mark Canha to pinch hit. The result was a grounder to third. Matt Chapman followed by taking a 1-1 changeup into the left field corner for the first Oakland hit, a double. After Yarbrough got Lowrie to pop to right, he nibbled to Davis, falling behind 2-0, after which the Rays gave the Oakland slugger a free pass. Matt Olson grounded. a 1-2 curve weakly to the left of second. But with the shift on, Willy Adames knocked down but couldn’t recover quickly enough. Olson reached on the infield single, with Chapman scoring from second. 1-0 A’s. The inning ended on a 3-1 groundout from Piscotty.
In the fourth, Smilin’ Tommy Pham blooped a two out double to center to extend his hitting streak. Joey Wendle followed, slapping a 1-2 fastball the other way to drive in Pham to knot the game at 1-1.
Tommy Pham extends his #MLB-best active hitting streak to 1️⃣7️⃣ with a double, and Joey Wendle drives him home to tie it up at 1 apiece.— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) September 15, 2018
Catch the @RaysBaseball doing battle with the A's on FOX Sports Sun and FOX Sports Go! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/5EyczZ223r
Wendle was picked off to end the rally. But it’s a new game!
Yarby coasted through the fifth, notching a couple Ks and a fly out while the booth engaged in some quality old dude wrestling talk. I’m not normally a fan of Hollenberg, and he did miss the call on the Mallex caught stealing badly in the first, as well as...well, a lot of other things. But he was pinch hitting for an ill Dewayne Staats tonight (get well soon, De-Wayne!) so he likely didn’t get as much prep time as you’d like. And when he wasn’t talking about baseball, the chemistry between he and BA was solid.
Willy Adames worked a full count, then reached on an infield single to start the bottom of the frame. Kiermaier broke his bat and chopped to Matt Olson, who forced Adames at second, with KK barely beating out the 3-6-1 double play attempt. Running on the 2-1 pitch, KK was caught stealing on a carbon copy of the play that nailed Mallex. Bauers would eventually draw the walk. Ciuffo then popped out end the inning, and Edwin Jackson is a terrible secret agent. We need to get a refund.
Chaz Roe took over in the sixth, making it a very short Yarbrough outing. Two innings, two hits, a run, a walk, and 2 strikeouts. With the lineup turning over again, Melvin again called for a pinch hitter, sending up former Ray Matt Joyce to hit for Canha. Joyce reached when Adames booted a grounder back through the middle, and was quickly replaced by pinch runner Dustin Fowler. Roe picked up the young shortstop, getting Matt Chapman to fly to center and dialing up a well-executed 3-6-1 double play against Lowrie.
EJax was done after five after giving up just the one run on four hits, two walks and three strikeouts. In came Shawn “Mad Dog” Kelley, who had yet to give up a run for Oakland since arriving in early September. Mallex Smith greeted him with an infield single to short. Matt Duffy pushed a first-pitch bunt to first baseman Matt Olson. Olson took a look at second before deciding to go to first. Except — well, nobody got to first base. First and second, no outs. Kelley then spiked an 0-2 slider into the dirt that got by Lucroy, moving up the runner to second and third. Oakland pulled the infield in. Unfortunately Choi was unable to hold up on another slider in the dirt as he struck out. Tommy Pham followed by popping to first, bringing up Joey Wendle.
Would you believe me if I told you they intentionally walked Joey Wendle to get to Willy Adames? Well, they did. Bases loaded, two outs.
Kelley fell behind 2-0, but battled back to finally strike out Adames on the sixth pitch of the at bat. Chicken, bone, something something.
If you had the seventh inning as the Matchup Inning, you win!
Roe went back out to face righty Khris Davis and got him to pop to short. Cash then made the call for Adam Kolarek to get the lefty-on-lefty matchup against Matt Olson. It paid off, as Olson grounded softly to Wendle on the first pitch. Cash was back out of the dugout to get a righty, Andrew Kittredge, to face Stephen Piscotty. Kitt took advantage of an anxious Piscotty, getting him to chase sliders off the plate in a three pitch strikeout.
Lefty Ryan Buchter got the call for Oakland in the bottom of the seventh against the lefty bottom of the Rays order. KK popped out on the first pitch and Bauers struck out. Cash eschewed a pinch hitter for Ciuffo and let the rookie hit. It almost paid off, as he drove one into the right center gap that was run down by Piscotty in front of a sliding Laureano.
Jose Alvarado took over in the eighth to try and keep this thing tied. On 2-2, he dotted the i with 98 swinging back over the inside corner to Laureano.
He fanned Semien swinging at a 97 mph fastball riding up and away.
Glad we're online and not in the box. pic.twitter.com/yW7DK5Y8Q2— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 15, 2018
Lucroy followed by working an epic at bat, fouling off six pitches during an eleven pitch at bat before Alvardo finally got him swinging at a 97 mph fastball.
Golf legend Lou Trivino took over in the bottom of the eighth. After a Mallex Smith groundout, Matt Duffy worked a walk, bringing Ji-Man Choi to the plate. Choi put a good swing on a 1-1 fastball, but lined harmlessly to center. Trivino struck out Tommy Pham to end the inning.
In accordance with the holy Rays scriptures, Sergio Romo had the ninth, though it did come after a little gamesmanship. Alvarado took the mound until righty Chad Pinder was announced as the pinch hitter. It was then that Cash made the move to Romo. Melvin chose not to pinch hit for his pinch hitter, and Romo got PInder to pop out to first. Next, he retired Matt Chapman on a pop to second. Lowrie completed the trifecta by popping to third. During the at bat, Romo again appeared to hurt his right leg/knee, but he stayed in the game. As it is written.
Enter Blake Treinen for the bottom of the ninth. Wendle starting the inning by grounding out to first, unassisted. Cash then called on the lefty Brandon Lowe to pinch hit for Willy Adames. On 1-1, Treinen drilled BLowe just above the left elbow with 98. Lowe rubbed some dirt on it and pretended he was fine. Kiermaier chopped to first, moving Lowe up to second and bringing Jake Bauers to the plate. But even with a second chance after new left fielder Chad Pinder stumbled over the bullpen mound chasing a foul pop, Bauers could come through, popping out to the pitcher to end the threat.
Jaime Schultz took over as the eighth Rays pitcher of the night, and fell behind 2-0 to Khris Davis. I have a bad feeling about this.
Schultz sat down the next three, giving the Rays one more shot.
C.J. Cron pinch hit for Ciuffo. Treinen turned Cron’s bat into a thousand toothpicks on a soft liner to third. Mallex Smith chopped one to second base and busted it out of the box, but his headfirst dive into first (don’t do this at home, kids) was too late. With Ji-Man Choi in the on deck circle, Matt Duffy then got ahead 3-0 before Treinen battled back to a full count. Duffy chopped the sixth pitch to short for the final out.
The Yankees pounded Toronto 11-0, dealing another blow to the Rays distant playoff hopes.
I know it says there were under 12K people at the Trop, but they were loud and into it tonight.
It will be a battle of staff aces tomorrow at 6:10PM, as TBD locks up with TBD.