The Rays had the Braves set up to do them in for the third straight time in the third straight way: early pitching duel, giving way to some 2 out magic from the Rays offense, leading to the dominant Tampa Bay bullpen crushing all hopes and dreams. But that wasn’t to be the story on this night.
Return of Uncle Charlie
Charlie Morton’s Opening Day start was not what Rays fans have come to expect from the most dominant curve in the
west east. Morton’s velo was down, and while the curve was soul stealing, he got knocked around for the tune of 6 runs and generally felt off all night.
In the early going, Morton was giving up hard contact left and right and those creeping concerns began to, well, creep up again. Is Morton done? Should he have retired? Is this gonna be a brutal season of regression?! Well Charlie made those questions that started in various twitter drafts get quickly deleted as Morton settled in to working his way through the Braves fierce lineup.
Overall it was a very Charlie Morton game. 5 innings pitched, plenty of Ks (7), some hits and deep counts, and overall delivering a strong start limiting the Braves to just 2 runs.
2 out Magic
The Rays have been absolutely tremendous with 2 outs in this young season. They ended Mike Foltynewicz Braves career with 2 out hits. They ended Kyle Wright’s strong start with some more 2 out damage. And tonight, in the 6th inning the Rays were able to chase Braves ace Mike Soroka, getting two on, making two outs, and then knocking in three runs thanks to RBi singles from Kiermaier and Renfroe.
Unfortunately, the Braves took some of that 2 out magic for the bottom half of the 6th for themselves.
The Rays got to see old friend Travis d’Arnaud again:
And then in the 6th to lead it off, old friend d’Arnaud got things started with a smoked double. Following that immediately was Dansby Swanson with a double of his own over Margot’s head in LF. After a weak ground out and a tremendous play from Wendle at 3rd, Kevin Cash had deemed Andrew Kittredge had done enough damage and called on the funky Oliver Drake to try and wriggle out of the jam with the lead intact.
Drake lost Ender Inciarte to a walk after getting ahead, but quickly rebounded by striking out Acuna with some filthy high heat. Now with 2 outs, there was light at the end of the tunnel for an escape! Turns out sometimes the light is a train.
Oliver Drake did exactly what he wanted to do and got Ozzie Albies to ground out weakly into the shift, but weak enough with a tricky enough play for Willy Adames to not quite gather the grounder, losing his grip on the ball while the Rays lost their grip on the lead.
Freddie Freeman was able to poke a single to center to give the Braves the lead, although Kiermaier was able to nail Albies trying to go 1st to 3rd ended the inning.
Great D Bad D
Jose Alvarado took the bump in the 7th to try and keep the Rays down by just 1. Alvarado’s return this season has been very encouraging. His absolutely unfair filthy stuff has looked mostly sharp so far, although still control can be shaky at times. Tonight he was not particularly sharp making his team leading 4th appearance of the season.
Back to back doubles to start the inning got him into trouble quickly. Travis d’Arnaud got the sac fly after to extend the lead to 2 runs.
With the game teetering in the balance, the Rays needed a spark. A play to reenergize them. Willy Adames very nearly gave them that play.
Absolutely brilliant snag by Adames flashing some great glove work. The throw however was not so great. Jose Martinez is no Choi at 1st, and a smoother defender could have snagged the short hopped throw, however Adames also needs to make that play.
The Braves were able to hold the lead and hand the Rays their first loss since opening day, ending a 4 game win streak.
Time to start the next win streak tomorrow.
Stat of the Game: 1 Hold
That’s what Andrew Kittredge was given credit for tonight. 0.1 IP, 2 hits (both doubles), 2 ER and 1 hold. Oliver Drake on the other hand struck out Acuna and got Albies to ground out weakly, and with some bad defense and unlucky results behind him, “earned” a blown save and the loss.
Throw this onto the pile of examples proving why most reliever stats are absolutely terrible.
I want to defend the process and choice of going with Kittredge in the 6th, even though ultimately the results did not work out. With a 2 run lead and the bottom of the order coming up, this is the time you use Kittredge. Andrew Kittredge made this team because he showcases a good hard slider and a mid to upper 90s fastball which flashed really well last year at times. If you can’t use him in this spot, you can’t use him in any spot.
After it was shown that his slider was just nothing special on the night, Cash made the right call to go with over of his more reliable and fairly fresh relievers to come in to face the Braves lineup as it turned over.
Sometimes the reasonable and correct moves don’t work out.
Highlight of the game
Couple of fun defense plays from Kiermaier to pick from, but I’ve got to go with another well executed relay to save a run at home: