The Ray improved to 76-64 as they pummeled Baltimore 14-2 behind a strong start from Blake Snell and a four-pack of dingers.
Blake Snell put on a clinic in the first, getting ahead of Cedric Mullins with 97 mph gas up before eventually finishing him looking at a nasty curve. Next, Snell flipped the script on Ray’s nemesis Joey Rickard, sitting him down on a three pitch K where he got ahead with two curves before finishing him with the heater up. Villar followed with a well-fought at bat where he saw Snell’s entire arsenal, and finally singled on the 10th pitch, a full-count change up. Snell was unfazed though, dicing up Trey Mancini with a three pitch fastball-change-fastball sequence for his third strikeout of the inning.
Bundy nearly matched Snell, striking out Mallex Smith and Matt Duffy looking before walking Ji-Man Choi (thanks in large part to a tiny zone from Fieldin Culbreth). He finished the inning by fanning Tommy Pham.
Snell continued to mow through the lineup in the second, recording two more Ks and a weak chopper to first.
ME: Looks like we got us a Craig Calcaterra special here! Two top of the rotation guys going at it!
NARRATOR: It was not a Craig Calcaterra special.
Bundy started to struggle with command in the second. With one out, Kevin Kiermaier damn near had a bunt double if he’d kept his head up, as his bunt against the shift wasn’t fielded by Nunez and continued to roll well past the third base bag. KK was then caught trying to steal the bag during Willy Adames’ at bat on a strong throw from Austin Wynns. Which is a shame, because two pitches later, Adames lined a hard single to left. Jake Bauers followed with a patient walk, bringing Nick Ciuffo up for his home debut. The rookie catcher did not disappoint, cranking a 1-0 down and in fastball into the seats in right, and killing the Rays rally at 3-0.
It’s tough to give somebody the rookie treatment in the dugout when half the team is a rookie. Somebody go get that young man his souvenir.
Note: Nick’s mom, Kim Ciuffo, was on hand to see the dinger, and was interviewed by Rich Hollenberg during the bottom of the third. She seems like a lovely and level headed woman, who didn’t even note this particular moment as her favorite baseball memory. (That would be Nick’s state championship.) Though the interview was awkward at the start as she was lost for words, once she got going, she could not stop thanking people and wishing they were here. Other than the dingers, this was one of my favorite moments of the game.
The tight zone continued to be just about the only thing to vex Snell on the night. A one out single to Wynns and a full count to Mullins (Come on, Fieldin...) threatened to make a longer third inning, but a 6-4-3 double play killed the threat.
Bundy handed out one out walks to Choi and Pham in front of what should have been a sure 4-6-3 inning ending double play. But Hustlin’ Joey Wendle and a lack of urgency on the turn by the Orioles put runners at the corner for Kevin Kiermaier with two out. On a 1-2, with Wendle running, KK was out in front of a hanging breaking ball. But KK was able to stay back just long enough to bank it off the right field foul pole, once again killing the rally. 6-0 Rays.
.@RaysBaseball Kevin Kiermaier continues with the hot bat belting a 3-run homer off the foul pole! Make that 6-0 Rays. #RaysUp #MLB Don't miss a minute of the action and tune in on FOX Sports Sun and FOX Sports GO. pic.twitter.com/KxqosxKhVZ— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) September 8, 2018
Snell pitched around another Jonathan Villar single in the fourth, recording another strikeout of Rickard in the process. On the downside, his pitch count was already over 70.
Ciuffo drew a walk in the fourth but no three run homer followed, though Mallex did give one a nice ride to left that was caught near the track.
Nunez hit a foul ball homer off Snell leading off the fifth that the Orioles wanted another look at. And sure, I get it. CB Bucknor was the ump who made the call; I’d ask to look again too. But that thing was foul, dude. Sorry. Nunez then broke his bat on a pop out to left. I felt bad for the dude. Then Snell fanned John Andreoli and Breyvic Valera, who I swear are real live major league players. They probably even have moms just like Nick Ciuffo. It made me sad.
Not sad enough to give the outs or the runs back, but, you know...
Sean Gilmartin took over for Bundy in the bottom of the sixth. Against the first batter he faced, he was the beneficiary of some larceny as Trey Mancini straight up stole a hit from Ji-Man Choi with a diving stop and an incredible flip to the pitcher covering. On the very next pitch, Tommy Pham made the O’s pay for their crimes against baseball Choi-kind, crushing one out to straight away center. Seriously, is there anyone on the planet who hits a ball to center harder than Tommy Pham?
7-0 Rays, and believe it or not, I saw a lil Pham smile in the dugout afterwards.
Snell recorded his ninth K leading off the sixth against Wynns. But with Snell pushing 100 pitches, Wendle was unable to make what would have been a webgem-worthy play on a Mullins infield single. Joey ranged far to his left for the pickup, but his spin and throw sailed past Bauers. Then, on his 104th pitch of the night, Joey Rickard (what? you didn’t think we’d keep him down all night, did you?) timed a Snell change up and hit it out to left. 7-2 Rays.
That would be it for Snell. 5.1, 2 ER, 5 hits, 0 walks, 9 Ks.
Enter Jaime Schultz, who retired Villar on a groundout and K’d Mancini.
In the bottom of the frame, Bauers worked a one out walk in front of an opposite field line drive single by Ciuffo. It was a nice piece of lefty-on-lefty hitting by Nick. A force play, a pitching change, a steal, and a walk set a full table for Ji-Man Choi against Ryan Meisinger. And like has been happening all game long, Choi killed the rally. This time, by taking an 0-1 slider that didn’t really slide deep to right center.
11-2 Rays, and Ozzie Timmons is begging for mercy!
Schultz pitched around an Andreoli single in a scoreless seventh, notching his second strikeout in the process.
Rookie Luis Ortiz made his debut for the O’s in the seventh. It...did not go well. Joey Wendle doubled to right to lead things off. Andrew Velazquez then collected his first big league at bat when he entered as a pinch hitter for Kevin Kiermaier. After falling behind 0-2, Velazquez also recorded his first big league hit when he went down and got a change up, flicking it over the second baseman and putting runners at the corners. A walk to Adames followed, bringing Jake Bauers to the plate with the bases juiced. But Jake...did not kill the rally, as he simply popped to second for the first out.
However, during Nick Ciuffo shot at killing the rally, a wild pitch from Ortiz scored Wendle and moved everybody else up. 12-2 Rays.
Ciuffo then lifted one not overly deep into foul territory in left. Velazquez challenged Andreoli anyway, scoring on a headfirst slide just ahead of the throw. Adames moved to third. 13-2 Rays.
Mallex Smith followed with an infield single on a chopper to Villar (Smith was originally ruled out but the Rays won the challenge). 14-2 Rays, and still nobody is killing this rally!
Matt Duffy walked on four pitches, and that was it for Diaz. Enter Yefry Ramirez, also making his major league debut. He walked Choi, but on the bright side, it took six pitches to do so. Ramirez then struck out Brandon Lowe, who was pinch hitting for Tommy Pham.
A stubbly Andrew Kittredge took over in the eighth, and I’m not sure what to make of him. On one hand, he retired the side in order. On the other, his inability to make up his mind on facial hair is confounding.
Andrew Velazquez drew his first big league walk in the eighth. He still hasn’t made an out! Also, it was the eleventh(!) walk Baltimore surrendered, and ... well, let’s just say that you can’t blame all of these on Fieldin Culbreth.
Hunter Wood worked a clean ninth, striking out the side. And considering the zone, which really was tight and is the real reason Snell only went 5.1, 15 strikeouts vs zero walks is pretty dang impressive.
- The A’s host the Rangers late tonight, while the Mariners host the Yanks. The Rays hope to close in with a little help from their friends, and also from the Yankees.
- The Rays host the O’s again tomorrow at 6:30PM, while the A’s and Rangers have a 4PM start, and the Mariners and Yankees have a 9PM start.