Some of my fellow and sister writers are convinced that afternoon getaway games are the Rays kryptonite. It just seems like these are games where the Rays offense is as lit as damp newspaper. (I wanted to check that theory against actual scores, but the online schedule doesn’t show start times for past games, so we’ll go with our gut here).
Today, then, could have been one of those games. The Tigers starting pitcher, Daniel Norris, a soft-tossing lefty, seemed like just the sort of meh pitcher who would inexplicably shut the line up down.
That is not, however, what happened. The Rays got on the board quickly. Yandy Diaz hit a very hard single by the pitcher on the first pitch of the game. He moved to second on a ground out, third on a wild pitch, and scored on an Austin Meadows RBI single.
So the Rays got off to a fast start, and Ryne Stanek, who got the ball for the “open”, recorded two quick outs, giving an impression that this game could indeed be an easy one. The third hitter up was Nick Castellano, and he hit what would turn out to be a double down the left field line. The funny thing about that hit: the Rays were playing a four-man outfield against Castellano to guard against just this sort of hit. Chritian Arroyo had moved from the infield to play far left field, but he wasn’t far enough toward the line to prevent that hit. Arroyo stumbled as he fielded the ball, but it didn’t seem to affect the outcome (but here’s what it looks like if you like watching gaffes, and also watching players have a sense of humor about gaffes).
Then Brandon Dixon hit a grounder that just managed to split the defense and score Castellanos from second to tie the score. Dixon would later get another hit on an almost identical shot, although the second time he did not drive anyone home.
Jalen Beeks came on as the Rays “bulk” guy, and he scattered four hits (and no walks) over four pretty effective innings. Chaz Roe, Hunter Wood and Diego Castillo followed. All allowed base runners (Roe walked two, the others gave up hits) but there were few hard hit Detroit balls, and several of their hits were lucky seeing-eye grounders or bloops to just the right place.
The Rays had a ton of scoring opportunities — base runners in all but one inning thanks to a total of 14 hits and two walks. It came close to being one of those frustrating games of missed opportunities as Neil Solondz notes:
The #Rays with 11 hits, and 11 balls with exit velo today above 100 mph, but only a 3-1 lead batting in the sixth.— Neil Solondz (@neilsolondz) June 6, 2019
But Travis d’Arnaud had other ideas. He was responsible for not one but two, two-run home runs, both to just about the deepest part of this very deep ballpark.
Here’s one of his shots; they other was pretty much identical:
His first home run put the Rays up 3-1 in the fourth inning. In the eighth inning, Willy Adames hit a solo shot and d’Arnaud added another two-run homer to bring the score to 6-1.
At the beginning of this series, I would not have guessed that Blake Snell would be the weak link among the pitchers. I would not have guessed that Travis d’Arnaud’s power would have been the difference in the game. But that’s why we watch!
The Rays are now one game out of first, pending the outcome of tonight’s Yankees-Blue Jays game.