I’ll just cut right to the chase: Gerrit Cole had the Rays backed into a corner the whole game, and by the time they were finally able to get him off the mound, the damage was already done.
Cole, who will likely be competing with his own teammate Justin Verlander for the Cy Young this year, was simply unstoppable. He threw a career-high 118 pitches and went 7 2⁄3 inning into the game, only chased from completing the eighth because of some aggressively long at-bats from the tenacious Rays.
As for those Rays, Cole struck out every single one of them at least once, amassing a total of 15 strikeouts for the game, and giving up only four hits and a single walk.
This is not to say Rays pitching didn’t perform well. It was a very similar story to what we witnessed in game one between Tyler Glasnow and Justin Verlander: two pitchers with incredible skill duelling it out and just hoping the other team slipped up first. And just like Friday’s game, it took time for the cracks to show on other side.
Blake Snell, who had pitched only six regular season innings after returning from the injured list, looked remarkably sharp through the first three innings, including a blisteringly efficient 10-pitch first. In the fourth he wavered, just slightly, and allowed a solo home run to the likely AL MVP Alex Bregman.
He was replaced by a VERY early use of Diego Castillo, who completed the inning and worked through the fifth as well. Castillo gave way to Ryan Yarbrough for a single scoreless sixth. It was Emilio Pagan in the seventh who looked very unlike himself. He gave up a single to Maldonado that scored Yuli Gurriel, putting the Astros ahead 2-0.
In the eighth, with the typically almost untouchable Nick Anderson on the mound, Carlos Correa hit a single that scored Bregman for a second time. Anderson was replaced by Poche, and I will admit to holding my breath, but Poche’s fastball was painting corners tonight and he managed to shut down the inning and limit the damage to only the Bregman run.
Things finally got interesting for the Rays in the ninth, as they took incredibly long at-bats against closer Roberto Osuna, really making him work for every strike. They loaded the bases twice, and a fielder’s choice off a grounder from Avisail Garcia scored Austin Meadows to keep the Rays from getting shutout.
In spite of some additional chances and a change in pitcher to Will Harris, the Rays were unable to score any additional runs and dropped the second game in the series to the Astros.
Guys, Gerrit Cole was just really, really, really good tonight. It was terrible.