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Rays 8, Yankees 7: The road to 90 wins gets a lot easier

Wherein I don’t even bother recapping the 9th inning

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks for winning a game, guys. Now all you need is to go 2-2 for the rest of the season, and you’ll have 90 wins. What an achievement.

If you like first inning action, then boy did I have the game for you. The massive bulk of the scoring in this game occurred within the first 30 minutes, and then things settled down to become a veritable battle of the bullpens. At least, until the very end of the game. Imagine an hourglass turned out its side: this game’s scoring looked just like that.

Neil Walker, the free agent signing that got away, made the Rays pay in the first with a big ol’ honkin’ home run to put the Yankees up 3-0 early. This all came after Ryne “Orel Hershiser” Stanek struck out Aaron Judge and Luke Voit to put the Rays within one out of escaping the inning. All 8,000 Yankees fans in attendance cheering, forcing me to angrily scribble in my “Hate Diary” to get through the top of the inning.

The Rays, on the other hand, got me to break out my “Love Diary” when they immediately matched the Yankees’ three-spot with a three of their own. Without the big boppers in the lineup that New York has, the Rays had to manufacture some runs of their own with good ol’ fashioned stolen bases, ground balls, and forced errors by the pitcher.

Mallex Smith reached to lead off the game, and promptly stole second base because he is very fast.

Duffy walked, and Joey “Better than Miguel Andujar” Wendle singled home the Speedy Smith to get a run back. C.J. Cron grounded back to Tanaka, who was so overcome by the possibility of doubling up Cron that he airmailed a ball into center field to force another run home. With runners on the corners, Kiermaier was hit with a pitch on the foot that made an awfully dull sound. Kiermaier later left the game (an X-ray revealed a hairline fracture of his right foot), although he stayed in to complete this inning. Willy Adames then hustled out an infield single to Miguel “Worse than Joey Wendle” Andujar to tie up the game. Although Bauers and Ciuffo both struck out to end the inning, the Rays essentially hit the reset button.

And luckily for the Rays, Tommy Pham kept the tape rolling with a leadoff shot in the third inning.

Enjoy this guy, because the Rays have him for a long time. Hopefully they are fine with investing in the proper workout equipment.

After Stanek left in the first inning (what a failed starter!) Cash turned to Yonny Chirinos for four innings. Although Chirinos has never quite recaptured the success he saw early in the year, he has seen some life as a Bulk Man. Recall his outstanding performance in Toronto a few weeks ago, where he seemed in danger of being lifted in the first inning he pitched but managed to work his way out of trouble. Chirinos shut out down the potent Yankees offense. Never really a strikeout guy, Chirinos nevertheless worked out of trouble in the fifth when he coaxed an inning-ending double play from Giancarlo Stanton, who loomed heavy with the bases loaded and one out.

In the sixth inning, Kolarek, Roe, and Alvarado each faced a single batter. Each struck them out. Roe actually faced two batters, got two of them out, but only recorded one thanks to a passed ball by Nick Ciuffo. Anyway, the Yankees didn’t score, which frankly is all that matters.

Meanwhile, the Rays were being stymied by the Yankees bullpen in turn. Tanaka went a mere four innings, but once the Yankee bullpen took over things became very tricky for the Rays. Jonathan Holder, the Yankees’ Opener a few nights ago, only allowed a walk, and Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman were their usual dominant selves.

But the dam didn’t hold forever. The closest things that the Rays had to big boppers themselves (Tommy Pham and C.J. Cron) came through to pad the lead. Pham walked off of David Robertson, and Cron absolutely demolished a ball to center field (with an exit velocity of 112 mph!) to score Pham from first base. Cron moved to third base on a passed ball by Gary Sanchez, and was replaced by Andrew Velazquez to pinch-run. This would prove to be a shrewd move, as a close play at home would have been an easy out had Cron been running. But the speedy Velazquez beat Andujar’s throw home, and gave the Rays yet another run.

Nick Cuiffo brought home another run on a weakly hit grounder that scored Willy Adames, a hit that was overturned by replay. The four-run lead (the most dangerous lead in baseball!) nevertheless felt pretty solid, but a botched pickoff that scored another run helped even more.

The Yankees scored a whole bunch in the ninth inning but who cares the Rays still won. If you want a recap of that part of the game just read the play-by-play. I’m not reliving another horribly pitched ninth inning by Sergio Romo. At the very least, Miguel Andujar made the final out, popping out in foul ground to Joey Wendle. It was about as much of a passing of the torch moment as you could get. #WendleROY

Tomorrow the Rays look to split the series against C.C. Sabathia, the ageless wonder. Maybe if the Rays get 90 wins we can subtweet some more national sportswriters who refuse to modify their lazy opinions about the Rays. Here’s hoping...