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Rays 5, Royals 2: Mike Zunino continues to be good

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And Jalen Beeks delivers his best outing of 2019

Kansas City Royals v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays went into tonight’s game against the Kansas City Royals hoping to not just win the game, but secure the series a day early. Doing so would potentially start a new streak after their last one of six was snapped over the weekend, when they got swept by the Boston Red Sox.

They’d look to do it against the Royals veteran starter Homer Bailey, who, after a tough start to the year, bounced back to pitch 7 shutout innings against Cleveland as well as 6 innings of one run ball in Yankee Stadium. This may sound impressive without context, but it’s safe to say he’d run into a healthier, more potent offense in St. Pete.

And that’s exactly what happened, as Bailey just didn’t have it, and failed to record as many outs as the Rays opener, going just one plus innings and allowing four runs on three hits and four walks.

Speaking of openers, Ryne Stanek took the ball for the Rays in his 5th open of the year. He made quick work of his first four batters, but exited after surrendering a triple to Ryan O’Hearn in the second. With a runner on 3rd and one out, Jalen Beeks entered in relief, and got the Rays out of the inning.

More early runs

After just two innings, the Rays already carried a 4-0 lead. Joey Wendle opened the scoring in the first with his first hit of the 2019 season:

In the second, Mike Zunino added on, extending his hitting streak to 8 with an RBI-knock to left:

A single by Brandon Lowe and a sacrifice fly by Yandy Diaz added the other two runs in the second.

Beeks provides the bulk

Unlike Bailey, Beeks hadn’t been his best self coming into tonight’s outing, giving up 7 runs in his last 9.1 innings pitched. Additionally, hitters had slashed .350/.414/.550 against him in that stretch. Luckily for the Rays, Beeks fared much better than Bailey, providing the Rays with the bulk innings his opposite could not.

He threw the Royals a nearly equal split of four seam fastballs and two seam changeups, with sparing usage of the cutter and curve. His ability to throw the changeup in nearly any count proved big, especially after getting into some trouble in the sixth; his final inning.

Beeks’s final line: 4.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 7K

In the bottom of the 6th, Zunino struck again:

Now armed with a 5-0 lead, the Rays gave the ball to newly recalled Austin Pruitt, who was added to the active roster after the Rays placed Ji-Man Choi on the Restricted List:

After giving up a seventh inning solo home run to Royals catcher Martin Maldonado, he made things even more interesting in the 8th, allowing Adalberto Mondesi to cross the plate on a wild pitch. After another hit by O’Hearn, this time a double, Pruitt’s night was done.

Adam Kolarek made quick work of former Ray Lucas Duda to limit the damage and end the threat. Emilio Pagan recorded the final three outs, earning his second save of the year.

Game notes

  • The Rays did indeed start a new series winning streak with tonight’s victory, and have won seven of eight series so far in 2019 to go along with the best record in baseball
  • With three hits in tonight’s game, Zunino seems to be finding his groove at the plate. Since April 10, he’s slashed a ridiculous .429/.448/.893
  • Daniel Robertson also appears to be getting comfortable at the dish. With two hits tonight, he’s hit safely in four of his last five contests
  • Brad Boxberger returned to the Trop, striking out the side in the seventh for the Royals
  • ICYMI: The Rays are the coolest team in baseball:

But we already knew that.

The Rays look to complete the sweep in tomorrow’s 12:30pm start. Blake Snell makes his much anticipated return.