The Rays sure did end August in style. They know every game counts right now, and in spite of an early lead from the Indians, the team hustled to head into September with a heck of an outing.
Diego Castillo opened the game and it was a somewhat rough inning and a third, giving up a two-run homer to Carlos Santana that scored Santana and Mercado. The pitching platoon was handed over to Jalen Beeks in the second, ostensibly for him to be the bulk guy, but he carried about as much bulk as pre-super serum Steve Rogers. Beeks went three innings, and though he did not give up any additional runs, he also struck out only a single batter. No walks, though.
In the second inning a solo blast from Ji-Man Choi put the Rays on the board, and in the third, a two-run shot from Tommy Pham (his 20th of the season) scored both Pham and Sogard and gave the Rays the lead.
It’s also worth mentioning just how impressively the Rays dazzled defensively in the third, with an utterly bonkers throw out at home from Kiermaier to Wendle, to tag Lindor out at home. It was just beautiful stuff, and thrilling to see KK back in action. Speaking of Eric Sogard, he did plenty of dazzle on his own in defense today, no doubt limiting some base hits from the Indians with impressive response time at second, even with the shift on.
Things settled down from a scoring perspective until the sixth inning, and during that time both teams played with shuffling the pitching decks. Beeks gave way to Drake, who gave way to Nick Anderson (who was bloody outstanding), who gave way to Roe. Roe’s breaking ball perplexed Jason Kipnis and Franmil Reyes, but took some extra oomph to finish the inning. Man that pitch has some insane sideways movement.
In the sixth inning the Rays broke things wide open. First a two-run home run from Garcia scored himself and d’Arnaud. Then Sogard, who was not content to just contribute defensively, hit a long single that scored Duffy. In the seventh the team piled on more with a d’Arnaud solo homer to open the inning. Then Duffy grounded out to score Choi and Garcia (this with a bonus assist thanks to a throwing error from Santana).
In the eighth inning Ricardo Pinto tried to join his teammates with another scoreless inning, but nope. First a base hit for Chang, then a two-run home run for that pesky-but-delightful Francisco Lindor (seriously, you’re wonderful, but score those runs somewhere else.) Then a two-out walk to Santana. He then bobbled a throw to first for the final out of the inning, but he got there. Minimal damage done, but aren’t we happy about those insurance runs now?
Life rule, Rays fans: never, EVER, trust a one-run lead.
(It behooves me to mention, belatedly, that former Rays reliever Hunter Wood pitched in this game for the Indians, and gave up three hits on four runs, with one walk and no strikeouts, which would have been a terrible night if he was still pitching for the Rays but in this case... Thanks Hunter.)
Phil Maton came on in the eighth to pitch for the Indians and I am literally only mentioning this because when I looked up at him I was dead convinced he was fourteen years old. Yes, I’m showing my age. Then another former Ray, Jake Bauers (come home, buddy, Willy misses you), stole a pretty well placed hit from Meadows that likely would have been a double.
Onto the ninth, where the Rays (and my flagging laptop battery) were hoping for an efficient conclusion. Pinto was back on for the final inning, and started it off with a walk. Emilio Pagan started warming. I silently prayed for a double play. I was rewarded with a no-out single. Perez hit into a fielder’s choice, advancing two runners to scoring position, but hey at least one out.
A double from Allen scored Freeman and Reyes and suddenly those extra, extra insurance runs are now necessary to keep the lead. Pinto’s night was done.
So was my laptop.
Pagan came on and collected a quick and necessary strikeout. He followed it up with a pop-out to Lindor to finish the game, and we all breathed a little easier.
Rays win 9-6.