The Rays did something tonight that has not been done in baseball history (at least dating back to 1901): start a lineup with all left handed batters.
No switch hitters (Choi has renounced his righty swinging ways at least for this year) and a left handed pitcher on the mound. The Rays went all left to get alright.
*slaps roof of car* This bad boy can fit so many lefthanders into a lineup
The Rays bats have been really struggling in the month of September. Sometimes it takes doing something weird to get back to Rays baseball.
The Red Sox started a RHIp, Andrew Triggs. But that lasted just one inning, leaving with what was reported to be a “pinched nerve” in his neck. Effectively the Red Sox used an Opener to then switch over to a left handed pitcher to counter the all left lineup.
The Rays offense left on left would finally break out because baseball often doesn’t make a lot of sense and that’s why we love it.
Yoshi got the party started with what would have been a ray tank splash down HR had the ray tank been full (and the net not there).
Yoshi with a tank to the tank! pic.twitter.com/b9eq70yexn— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 11, 2020
The Rays used some speed to generate a run in the 3rd. After hits from Joey Wendle and the very much no longer slumping Brandon Lowe, a double steal bamboozled Christian Vazquez. Kevin Kiermaier would get a nice grounder to get Wendle in from 3rd with a productive out, and small ball Rays were out to an early 2-0 lead.
The rest of the runs would start to waterfall down inning after inning. The Rays scored in 6 of the 8 innings they played on the evening.
Austin Meadows (also now very much slump busted) drove home two with a sharp double to the wall in the 4th.
Nate Lowe is another Rays slugger who desperately needed a big game, and he certainly got one. Lowe would finish the game 3-4 with 2 HR 4 RBI. The first of his HRs ended up smashing an unsuspecting cutout in the RF seats.
Lowe’s second HR also involved a cutout, this one involving the Crawford corner or the Game 162 landing spot if you prefer. This time the Rays finally got the game breaking hit the pushed it well over the top and firmly out of reach.
The Rays offensive struggles in September were not to the point of concern yet. After all, the 96 win Rays of last year lost three in a row seven times. These stretches happen to even great teams. But it certainly is a relief to see the Rays breakout and put together strings of great at bats, hits, walks, HRs, and lots of runs on the board rather than chicken left on the bone.
Lefties at the plate, lefty on the rubber
Blake Snell pitched an uneven but mostly dominant performance. How can that description possibly be accurate? Well, let’s take a look at two of his 5.1 innings pitched.
1st inning: Snell came out and was trying to get a feel and get into a groove against the Sox leadoff hitter Alex Verdugo. Verdugo laid off a high fastball and a very bounced slider, worked the count full, and then Snell got him swinging at a Slider that had designs only for the ground and a glove. The next two Sox hitters would not last long, and Snell got five swinging strikes out of the six needed to K Devers and Bogaerts.
3rd inning: The uneven example showed good and bad, and deep counts which got to Snell all game. Snell walked Chavis on six pitches, and then just needed two pitches to get Christian Arroyo to ground into a double play.
Eight pitches to Verdugo ends in a single. One pitch to Devers also ends in a single, and a new threat. Another deep count, long at bat by Bogaerts, made Snell sweat a bit. On the eighth pitch, Snell would win the war of attrition and get the grounder to escape the threat on a change-up out of the zone.
Snell was good tonight, at times really good. But against his own standards, not as sharp as I’m sure he would want to be.
Bullpen breaks the lefty streak
Snell would depart to another threat, after an inning ending double play was booted by Yoshi at 3rd. Snell would depart over 100 pitches, with two on, 1 out, and Pete Fairbanks in to pick up the Rays ace.
The Red Sox deployed a two catcher approach back to back in their lineup. While Vazquez’ sharp grounder found and glanced off Tsutsugo’s glove to avoid the double play, Fairbanks was able to get other catcher Kevin Plawecki to ground into Joey Wendle’s glove and complete the double play that the Red Sox were so determined to hit into.
That was the final real threat of the game, as the Rays bullpen would settle into cruise control. After Fairbanks came John Curtiss to continue his emergence into rock steady backend bullpen arm for the Rays.
Of course, the Rays would turn to two MORE lefties to finish off the day of left handers. Ryan Sherriff and Aaron Loup would get the low leverage innings to mop up the final 6 outs.
Stat of the Game - 9
The number of pure left handed batters the Rays started in their lineup, and played all game with no substitutions. First time in MLB history.
With the Rays win and the Blue Jays 18-1 loss to the Mets, 9 is also the magic number for Tampa Bay to clinch a spot in the postseason bubble.