Opening the new series against the Kansas City Royals, the Rays looked to get back into the win column against a struggling team after the Rays dropped the previous four games to divisional opponents.
Yonny Chirinos received the nod to start the game for the Rays, and in the first inning, Chirinos got touched up for a run against after a solo home run by the scorching-hot Alex Gordon.
With a run on the board for Kansas City, Royals starting pitcher Brad Keller had some comfort heading into the bottom of the first inning, but Tommy Pham wasn’t going to let that lead last.
Legging out a triple, Pham was in scoring position with only one out in the inning, and Yandy Diaz hit a sacrifice fly far enough to score Pham, tying up the game at 1-1.
Still tied 1-1 in the bottom of the third, Adalberto Mondesi stepped up to the plate and swung at the first pitch, driving the ball to right-center field for what looked like a sure extra-base hit. Unfortunately for Mondesi, the Rays have the surprisingly fast Avisail Garcia in right field, and Garcia tracked down that ball to record the second out of the inning. Garcia ran down the ball at 29.4 feet per second, recording the out on what was only a 5% catch probability.
The bats stayed relatively quiet for both teams until the top of the fifth inning, where Yonny Chirinos allowed his second solo home run of the night, this one to Jorge Soler to give the Royals a 2-1 lead.
Chirinos found himself allowing yet another solo home run in the top of the sixth inning, with Hunter Dozier extending the Royals lead to 3-1, and making the sixth inning the final inning Chirinos would pitch.
Up until this point, the Rays offense was quieted by the duo of Brad Keller and a bit of bad luck, as three of the team’s five hardest hit balls to this point were right to Royals defenders. The bottom of the sixth inning would see that change, however.
Following a fielder’s choice to put Willy Adames on, Brandon Lowe doubled to plate Adames from first, cutting the Royals’ lead in half. A lineout from Yandy Diaz and a pop out from Joey Wendle would end the inning, but Kansas City’s lead was down to only one.
.@Sweet_n_Lowe5 -- the AL rookie hit, home run, and RBI leader -- smacks an RBI double to bring home @willya02. #RaysUp #MLB— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 23, 2019
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It’s safe to say that Brandon Lowe’s AL Rookie of the Year campaign is off to a great start, and clutch hits like this will only continue to support that movement, even if we’re still only in April.
Chaz Roe was called upon to relieve Yonny Chirinos, and although Roe walked two batters, his command looked better than in previous outings and he even recorded a strikeout. Wilmer Font relieved Chaz Roe after Roe pitched 0.2 innings, and Font closed out the inning without allowing the runners inherited from Roe to score.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, things got good in this game. After a double by Avisail Garcia and a base hit from Kiermaier to put runners on at the corners, Daniel Robertson hit the ball to the second baseman Merrifield for a fielder’s choice, scoring Garcia and tying the game at 3-3.
With Daniel Robertson at first, Mike Zunino, fresh off of a return from the paternity list, stepped up to the plate. In what has to be one of the coolest moments in the young season, Mike Zunino blasted a ball to dead center field, hitting his first home run with the Rays.
Willy Adames was the next batter to step up to the plate, and his at bat led to a hilarious misplay by Jorge Soler in right field. Adames was credited with a triple on the play, but he would eventually be stranded at third.
Adam Kolarek pitched in the top of the eighth inning, striking out two batters and not allowing any hits. In the bottom of the eighth, Yandy Diaz homered to right to give the Rays an insurance run to extend the score to 6-3, Diaz’ sixth home run on the season.
Closing out the game in the ninth inning, Emilio Pagan threw a perfect inning while recording his first career save in the Majors.
The Rays showed a great amount of resilience in this win against the Royals, not allowing the strong early innings by Keller to get to them, and coming out victorious against a team that the Rays have had good success against over the past season and a half.
The Rays will look to get the series win tomorrow against the Royals at 7pm, with a bullpen day scheduled behind opener Ryne Stanek.