It’s a good day to be a Rays fan.
In the first game of the ALDS, the well-rested Rays fell in line behind starter Shane McClanahan to take on the Red Sox, and boy did they do it in style. The Rays wasted no time whatsoever putting runs on the board, and did so with the help of two very real Rookie of the Year contenders.
And speaking of rookies, when was the last time a club used back-to-back rookie starters for the postseason (and specifically rookie starters named Shane?) Man, this is a fun team, and it was great to see a loud crowd fill up the Trop tonight.
Kicking things off in the first inning, Kyle Schwarber started it out with a one-out single, then successfully stole second. The Sox were unable to turn the baserunner into a run, though. In the bottom of the inning, the Rays were quick to get things going, with 2020 postseason superstar Randy Arozarena drawing a walk, followed by a looooong double off the bat of Franco that was able to send a warp-speed Arozarena home. With two outs, Yandy Diaz legged out a well-placed single down the third base line, and Franco scored while Diaz safely slid into first base. The Rays were up 2-0 after the first inning.
Onto the second and some defensive woes put things at risk, as Renfroe singled, then Verdugo grounded into a fielder’s choice but Lowe lost the ball on a hop and both runners were safe. Things balanced out a bit with a double play on the next play, and in both situations Franco really helped things along. In the bottom of the second, Margot drew a leadoff walk, then advanced to second on a Zunino flyout. This was also the inning where the Rays chased Red Sox starter Rodriguez from the game. No runs scored.
McClanahan set the Red Sox down in order in the third, and on the Rays end of things Nelson Cruz hit a two-out home run (a Trop home run at that, bouncing off the C-ring). Diaz walked, but no additional runs scored after the Cruz homer.
In the fourth, Devers got a one-out single. Then Verdugo got a two-out single. But it didn’t yield them anything. Bottom of the fourth didn’t bring much action for the Rays, as Zunino hit a rare single, but a Kiermaier grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Arroyo got a one-out single in the top of the fifth (lots of singles for the Sox, but not much else). A popout and fielder’s choice polished off the rest of the side. It was also the end of the night for McClanahan, who went 5.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K on 82 pitches. Randy Arozarena wanted to continue his postseason domination, and kicked off the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run. No other runners got on, but it was enough to put the Rays up 4-0.
Chargois was on the mound in the sixth and gave up only a Bogaerts single. In the bottom of the sixth the Rays went down 1-2-3 for the first time all night.
Top of the seventh belonged to David Robertson who sent the Sox back to the dugout in order. And oh, oh friends, the bottom of the seventh is why we love the postseason. With two outs, Arozarena drew his second walk of the night, then a Franco double sent Arozarena to third (oh you could just tell he wanted to go all the way). Then RANDY AROZARENA STOLE HOME. IN OCTOBER.
Enjoy that vibe, because things got a bit ugly in the top of the eighth as Feyereisen took the mound. Arroyo singled, then Schwarber got a one-out single. Then Kiermaier lost what should have been a flyout in the temperamental roof, and Bogaertes got himself a single to load the bases. Devers struck out. A pop-up to Diaz ended the inning with no harm done, but that definitely could have been a big yikes. The Rays went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth.
Feyereisen returned to the mound for the top of the ninth, and after a rocky eighth he was in the zone for the ninth. And three up, three down, the Sox were shut out and the Rays took game one.
Final: Rays 5, Red Sox 0