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Rays 14, Braves 5: The newest bats arrived in a big way

Tampa Bay’s offense went off to open the series against the Braves

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Tampa Bay Rays Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

With the Atlanta Braves in town for the first of a two-game series, the Rays looked to build on the success from the season’s opening series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tyler Glasnow took the mound for the Rays, making his first start of 2020. Glasnow’s first inning was about as effortless as possible, striking out three of Atlanta’s four biggest hitters. The only hitter Glasnow didn’t strike out, Freddie Freeman, drew a walk before being stranded on first.

Mike Foltynewicz started for Atlanta, also making his first start of 2020. There were some concerns in Summer Camp about Foltynewicz’ velocity on his fastball, a pitch that averaged 94.8 mph last season, nearly four mph faster than his first pitch tonight which was only 91 mph.

Glasnow’s second inning was not as seamless, allowing a 424-foot solo home run to Dansby Swanson. Swanson’s home run was the only run allowed by Glasnow in the inning, but the pitch count quickly crept up in the second, reaching 48 pitches after only two innings.

The Rays offense looked like it would be shut down for a third-straight inning, but with two outs and a full count, Mike Zunino evened this game up with a solo shot to the left-center field seats. The batted ball metrics on Zunino’s home run were 101 mph off of the bat and 425 feet into the left-center field seats, one foot more than Swanson’s home run in the second.

Glasnow kept the heat coming in his fourth and final inning, striking out the side and making way for the Rays offense in the bottom of the inning. His final line: 72 pitches over four innings, one hit, one earned run on the home run, two walks and nine(!) strikeouts.

The bottom of the fourth started with a popout before Jose Martinez and Yoshi Tsutsugo both drew walks. After collecting his first hit as a Ray earlier in the game, Hunter Renfroe stepped in the box with two runners on and left the box with those runners heading home, launching a three-run home run to the same spot that Zunino did, giving the Rays a 4-1 lead.

On the very next pitch, Joey Wendle increased the lead by one more, hitting a solo shot to right field to give the Rays a 5-1 lead! Renfroe’s home run went 420 feet, coming off of the bat at 108.5 mph while Wendle’s home run left his bat at 100.7 mph, going 373 feet.

Touki Toussaint entered the game after Foltynewicz walked Willy Adames, and the runs did not stop when Foltynewicz exited. Adames stole second base before Kevin Kiermaier hit a perfect roller to short that Dansby Swanson misplayed, allowing Adames to score on the play. Toussaint hit Mike Zunino in the belly to put Z on first, then struck out Ji-Man Choi.

Brandon Lowe stepped up to the plate with one on and two outs and launched a ball to deep center field, just missing a home run. Fortunately, center fielder Ender Inciarte lost the ball in the Tropicana Field roof and that allowed Zunino to score and Lowe to reach third on what was scored as a triple.

Lowe scored on a wild pitch with Jose Martinez at the plate to extend the lead to 9-1. Martinez struck out to end the inning. Diego Castillo pitched the fifth inning and worked a 1, 2, 3 inning, striking out two.

In the bottom of the fifth, Hunter Renfroe was up with one out in the inning, and would you believe it he did it again, hitting another home run with an even harder exit velocity at 109.7 mph to give the Rays a 10-1 lead!

With a 10-1 lead through five innings, the Rays bullpen had no pressure on them to put together innings and close this game out. Jalen Beeks was brought in and after five batters faced, the Braves put up four runs to make this a 10-5 ballgame. Matt Adams hit a three-run home run after Freddie Freeman hit an RBI single to bring us to this point. Beeks did get out of the inning without allowing any additional runs.

In the bottom of the sixth, with Toussaint still pitching, Ji-Man Choi drew a two-out walk before Brandon Lowe hit a double to put two runners in scoring position for Jose Martinez. Martinez drove home not only his first but also his second run with the Rays, hitting a single up the middle to give the Rays a 12-5 lead.

AJ Minter took the mound for the Braves in the bottom of the seventh and with one out, Joey Wendle singled and Willy Adames drove him home with a line drive to left field, bringing the Rays to 13 runs. After the second out was recorded, Ji-Man Choi, batting right-handed, struck out to end the inning. Jalen Beeks stayed in to pitch the top of the eight and worked a quiet inning.

Beeks was effective in three innings of work despite his shaky first inning when he allowed three runs, striking out seven in his outing without walking anyone. Jose Martinez increased the lead by one more in the bottom of the eighth with a loud solo home run to left field, making it 14-5 Rays.

With a nine-run cushion, Jose Alvarado entered the game in the top of the ninth to try and close this one out. After a leadoff hit and a fielder’s choice for the first out, Alvarado struck out the next batter and induced a line-out to center field to secure the Rays win, 14-5 over the Atlanta Braves.

Rays pitching recorded 19 strikeouts, setting a new nine-inning game record for the club. Seven out of the 14 runs scored tonight were brought home by hitters acquired during the offseason. The Rays will look to sweep the series tomorrow night with Yonny Chirinos set to face Kyle Wright, first pitch slated for 7:10pm inside of Tropicana Field.