I’m out of fingernails. That was intense! On a day that the Rays offense was mostly held in check, they manage just enough pitching and defense to pull out a 2-1 victory.
After the city of Boston’s embarrassing continued failure to “put a roof on it” delayed the Rays revenge for last weekends sweep at home, Charlie Morton took the hill at damp and decrepit Fenway Park against soft-tossing lefty David Price. The Rays, of course have struggled against pitchers like Price who rely more on cunning than “stuff.” But Yandy Diaz showed that these are not your mama’s Rays, taking the second pitch of the game 428 feet deep and over the monster.
Diaz’s 7th (!) homer of the young season gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.
On the pitching side, Charlie Morton was sharp in the early going, throwing a lot of first pitch strikes early and generally taking command. And he needed to be sharp, as his defense forced him to get four outs in each of the first three innings. In the first, he pitched around a two-out whiff by Daniel Robertson of a Mitch Moreland grounder by retiring Bogaerts on a fly to right.
In the second, Uncle Charlie bounced back from a walk and an odd everybody-is-safe fielders choice when Robertson fielded a Steve Pearce grounder from the shift, but Willy Adames failed to get to the bag in time for the force out. Morton picked up his fielders by striking out Bradley, then getting Vazquez to ground out to short.
In the third, a one-out grounder to deep short by Betts ended with Mookie standing on second when Adames one-hop throw to first eluded Diaz. The play was credited as a hit and an error on Adames. Morton recovered by getting Moreland to lift a 1-2 cutter to left, and — after a wild pitch on a good curve — a strikeout of Bogaerts.
Meanwhile, the crafty Price bounced back from Yandy dinger to cruise through the rest of the front three, giving up just a walk while striking out four.
The Rays touched Price for the second run of the game in the fourth, though they also left some prime on the rib. Tommy Pham started it off by lifted a change that was up in the zone high off the monster for a double. The scuffling Robertson followed with a nice 8-pitch at bat that ended in a walk. Garcia followed and missed an RBI chance when he swung through a center cut first-pitch fastball. He eventually struck out on a full count fastball in. Zunino then fell behind in the count, but stayed back on a change up and hooked a hard liner off the wall in left, scoring Pham.
RBI SINGLE— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 27, 2019
@Raysbasball catcher @Mike_Zunino hammers this one off the wall in left recording his 12th RBI of the year as @TphamLV scores and extends the Rays lead!
Tune in to @RaysBaseball ⚾ on FOX Sports Sun l FOX Sports Go! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/3Mr0xtaR6l
The Rays loaded the bases when Kiermaier slapped a 1-2 fastball through the hole, but they failed to cash in after Heredia struck out during a long (mostly because Price was taking FOR EV ERRRR) at bat, and Adames grounded out to third to end the Rays half of the inning.
In the fifth, the Rays again make Price work for it, running some deep counts, with Diaz working walk, but he was erased a double play grounder from Pham.
The Rays went in order in the sixth, with Robertson and Garcia both getting ahead in the count before grounding to third, and Zunino grounding to second on one pitch. That would be it for David Price.
Morton command seemed to abandon him during the middle innings. He walked Devers to lead off the bottom of fourth. But on the 2-2 pitch that swept wide, Zunino picked him off. Chavis then walked but was erased on a double play.
Morton again gave up a lead off walk in the fifth, giving the free pass to Bradley. He was erased a double play that Robertson nearly booted away, but with the catcher Vazquez running, there was ample time to make up for the bobble. Morton then hit Benintendi on the toe on an 0-2 pitch, but came back to get Betts to strikeout swinging on a curve below the zone.
A shifted Willy Adames made a nice diving stop to retire Moreland leading off the sixth. This mattered because Bogaerts followed by recording the first “real” hit of the game when he doubled off the monster. Morton rebounded to finish his day with the shutout intact, making quick work of Devers on three pitches, and then getting Michael Chavis on a high fly to left. Morton’s line: no runs on two hits, with four walks and five strikeouts.
Brandon Workman came on for the Red Sox in the seventh, and was on his way to striking out the side in order when Adames bounced back from 0-2 with two outs to work a seven-pitch walk. Adames then stole second during the at bat from Christian Arroyo. Arroyo fouled off some tough pitches on his way to drawing a nine pitch walk. The mini-rally ended when Yandy Diaz grounded into a force out against new pitcher Marcus Walden.
The Rays failed to put up much of threat in the eighth and ninth, though Robertson worked a one-out walk in the eighth, laying off several close pitches. DRob may have been shaky in the field today, but he looked better at the plate today than he has in a while, the 0 for 2 notwithstanding.
The Rays pieced the back end of game together with duct tape. First, Chaz Roe came on for the seventh for some high leverage work. After missing with a couple sliders Steve Pearce, he locked him up with a fastball at the top of the zone. Roe then walked Bradley on non-competitive at bat, but came back to get Vazquez on a liner to right that would have doubled off Bradley if Garcia hadn’t had trouble getting the ball out of his glove. Adam Kolarek then came on and whiffed Benintendi on four pitches, putting him away on the heater up and out of the zone after setting up the lefty by pounding him in.
Diego Castillo came on for the eighth but was not himself. He left the first of several flat sliders out over the plate to Mookie Betts. You can guess what happened. 2-1 Rays. Castillo then got Moreland to fly to left, but followed that by walking Bogaerts on four pitches. And that was it for Castillo. Enter El Diablo.
Jose Alvarado did get out of the jam, but it was not smooth. First, he gave up a lined single to right by Devers to put runners on the corners. He did come back to fan Chavis with a couple nice sliders, but then walked Pearce on a long nine-pitch at bat to load the bases. Jackie Bradley then worked a full count before striking out on a slider down. Credit should also go to Mike Zunino, who made several good blocks of balls in the dirt to keep the runners in place during the inning.
Emilio Pagan worked the ninth and picked up his third save, but it was not without drama. Vazquez singled to left on a 1-2 slider to start a rally. Pagan then got a huge out when he struck out Benintendi looking at 1-2 fastball at the bottom of the zone. He followed that up by getting Betts to pop to first, but Diaz was unable to make the catch when it was (apparently) caught up in some swirling winds. But the big first baseman maintained his composure, fielding the ball on one bounce and forcing Benintendi at second. Pagan finished it off by returning Moreland for the fifth time today, this one a swinging strikeout.
Winner winner chicken dinner!
Tomorrow at 1PM, Tyler Glasnow takes the hill against another soft tossing lefty in Chris Sale.