After last night’s 8-1 rout of the Baltimore Orioles, the hot hitting Rays eyed a sweep with a win in tonight’s game, but would have to settle for a series win in a tough but well fought 6-5 loss.
Rays starter Hunter Wood made easy work in the top of the first, and the Rays continued their trend of first inning runs, with Austin Meadows tattooing a 99.9 MPH double to the right center field wall off Orioles starter Andrew Cashner. Tommy Pham followed with a 108.7 MPH ground ball that just got by the glove of first baseman Renato Nunez.
These numbers are important, because coming into tonight’s game, the Rays led all of baseball in Hard Hit percentage, which is defined by the percentage of batted balls with an exit velocity of 95 MPH or higher:
Hard Hit % broken down by team... @RaysBaseball also hitting the ball harder at a higher % than any other team pic.twitter.com/3uPgg28oX1— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 18, 2019
Additionally, the Rays have recorded franchise bests (in the Statcast era) in average Exit Velocity, Barrel Percentage and xwOBA amidst their hot start, as noted by our own Dominik Vega.
So far in 2019, Cashner has allowed a 52.2 hard hit with an average exit velocity of 92.8 MPH, both among the highest in baseball. All the makings of a laser show sequel were in order.
But the Rays settled for the one run. Hard hit ball count: 2
Wood threw up another zero in the second, but not before a few defensive miscues made things interesting. Two men reached base, but neither of them scored. Other than a 103.2 MPH single to the right side by Mike Zunino, the bottom of the inning was uneventful. Hard hit ball count: 3
Lefty Jalen Beeks took over for Wood in the 3rd, and after giving up a few hard hit balls of his own, surrendered two runs, despite getting ahead of every hitter he faced in the inning. It was a rocky start for Beeks.
Pham quickly answered, though, depositing a curveball from Cashner to right center for his 4th home run of the year, tying the game at 2:
Tommy Pham (4) off RHP Andrew Cashner (9) - 106.5 mph, 26 degrees (421 ft Home Run)— MLBBarrelAlert (@MLBBarrelAlert) April 19, 2019
81.1 mph Curveball#Orioles @ #Rays (B3) pic.twitter.com/4Ef1PRu91u
Hard hit ball count: 4
Beeks got out of the 4th relatively quickly, but not without a hiccup in the form of a home run by Pedro Severino. This time the Rays would not answer, as Cashner recorded a 1-2-3 inning. No hard hit balls by the Rays offense.
In the fifth, though, the Rays’ bats showed some signs of life. Willy Adames started the inning with a 100.8 MPH rocket to third, unfortunately for him, it was right at Rio Ruiz. Meadows reached for the second time on an opposite field single (68.1 MPH), Pham for the third with an oppo knock (101.8 MPH) of his own. After stealing second, the Rays had two in scoring position, but Ji-Man Choi struck out looking, ending the threat. Hard hit ball count: 6
Adam Kolarek was called upon to start the 6th, and he too would get into some trouble, allowing singles to Jonathan Villar and Trey Manicini. At this point, it was Mancini’s fourth time reaching base. Kolarek would get out of it, getting Ruiz to ground out to end the inning.
It would be a bullpen game after that, with Jimmy Yacabonis relieving Cashner. After allowing a leadoff walk to Yandy Diaz, the Rays made three solid bids to score him, including two fly balls to the wall by Brandon Lowe and Mike Zunino and a sharp grounder by Kevin Kiermaier. Ultimately, they would fail to score. Hard hit ball count: 8
The Orioles added another run off of Kolarek in the 7th on a single by Richie Martin that scored Rays former farmhand and current archnemesis Joey Rickard, his first career run batted in. There was also this bizarre play:
.@RaysBaseball catch Martin in a rundown. #RaysUp 2 #Birdland 4 #MLB— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 19, 2019
Catch the game LIVE now on FOX Sports Sun l FOX Sports Go pic.twitter.com/LuNnh16trv
A 101.2 MPH infield single by Adames extended his hitting streak to 10 games, and ended Yacabonis’s night. He’d be lifted for lefty Paul Fry to face Meadows, who was subsequently lifted for righty hitting Avisail Garcia. He would not hit the ball hard. He would not hit the ball at all. Pham followed with his first out of the game, and the Rays came up empty once again. Hard hit ball count: 9
Called on for the second consecutive night, Emilio Pagan widened the deficit to 3, and the Rays just 6 outs to go.
Two leadoff walks started the Rays half of he 8th inning, the first by given by Fry and the second by replacement Evan Phillips. With two on and one out, Zunino made it a one run game:
Mike Zunino comes through with a ✌-RBI double.#RaysUp 4 #Birdland 5 #MLB pic.twitter.com/FS83TBjyGI— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 19, 2019
Sadly, it wasn’t a ‘hard hit’ ball.
Phillips would concede to Tampa native Mychal Givens for the four out save. With the runner now on third, Daniel Robertson made his best effort to drive in the tying run with a 98.3 MPH lineout to right, but a running catch by Rickard put that to bed. Hard hit ball count: 10
Pagan worked a clean 9th, and the Rays would take advantage:
Avisail Garcia just LAUNCHED one 447 ft, 113 mph off the bat. Bonus two-handed bat flip. pic.twitter.com/aIWbhibMg8— Ben Porter (@Ben13Porter) April 19, 2019
Do I really need to give you an exit velocity reading on that?
Fine, it was 112.8 MPH.
Pham followed with his 4th hit of the night, a 101.6 MPH shot right up the middle. Hard hit ball count: 12
The game now tied going into extras, Jose was peak Alvarado:
Jose Alvarado brings that heat! #RaysUp 5️⃣ #Birdland 5️⃣ in the 10th inning. #MLB pic.twitter.com/nYZCWtn4pZ— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 19, 2019
John Means wouldn’t be outdone, striking out the side as well.
In the top of the 11th Joey Rickard struck again, this time off of Diego Castillo, giving the Orioles the lead with a double that scored Chris Davis, who improbably started the rally with two outs and none on.
Robertson drew a walk to get on, and Adames made a bid, but that would be your ballgame.
Hard hit ball count: 13
Total balls in play: 26
Hard hit percentage: 50%