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Rays 8, Angels 3: Once Upon an 8th Inning...in Anaheim

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While you were sleeping, the Rays turned a pitcher’s duel into a blowout

Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

This game, fitting for a team that pretends to be from Los Angeles, could almost fit into the classic three-act structure of film storytelling.

First, you had the inciting incident: an opener that captures your attention.

Second: the story builds, introduces confrontations and conflicts, all leading to the low point for our protagonists.

Finally: the resolution. A dynamic climax which brings the story to a close with an emotional payoff.

Act 1: McHugh? More like McHUGE!

Welcome back Collin McHugh! It hasn’t been the best first impression for our newest character on the Rays, what with a slow start, some bad performances, and an early injury list stint. But oh boy did that change tonight!

After being activated yesterday off the IL, McHugh showcased that devastating Slider that made him such a dynamic pitcher in Houston. As opening acts go, you can’t do much better than this: 2 perfect innings, with 5Ks (all swinging!).

The Rays have faced some tough luck with injuries, especially on the pitching side so far in 2021. Getting McHugh back, and in the best form he’s looked in years, is a major boost. It’s good to see that Slider dancing like Fred Astaire again.

Act 2: Dueling Lefties

For the Los Angeles Angels, Andrew Heaney took the mound. As Heaney’s command goes, so goes Heaney. Well, on this night his command was fairly sharp.

Heaney worked well around the corners and kept the Rays swinging at his pitches rather than theirs. The final line ended up a sterling 6.2 IP 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, and 10 Ks. However, that doesn’t tell the full tale, as the Rays did put some good swings and contact into play. Heaney’s command around the zone though meant that contact was just off the barrel, or just enough away, for Rays to leave balls finding gloves and the warning track.

On the other side of things was Josh Fleming. The goggled Missourian acted as the headliner to McHugh’s Opener, and clearly was affected by the news of his childhood idol Albert Pujols release earlier in the day. His 1st inning (which was the game’s 3rd) was definitely his worst.

After a quick groundout, Fleming gave up a double to the wall that ended up a much closer play than it had any business being thanks to a cannon throw from Brett Phillips. Another double scored the 1st run of the game. Another hit after that lead to a great throw by Randy in LF (see Kevin, you can trust him!) to hose Gosselin for the 2nd out at home. But then Ohtani came up to bat and...he’s good!

So, not the best introduction to the game for Fleming. He would settle in though, and actually pitch a heck of a game to keep the Rays within striking distance.

Here’s Fleming’s first inning: 1 IP 4 H 3 ER 0 BB 0 K

And here’s the rest of Fleming’s night: 4 IP 2 H 0 R 1 BB 3 K

This wasn’t the best we’ve ever seen of Josh Fleming, but this is a tough lineup to navigate, and he did a great job to keep the game close and set the stage for a thrilling conclusion.

Act 3: The Big Finale!

The Rays had fought hard vs Heaney, and in his previous inning came within a foot or two of giving up HRs to Margot and Yandy. So when Joe Maddon came out to take the ball from Heaney in the 7th, it made sense. But sometimes the good process doesn’t lead to good results. And just when the Rays seemed to be stuck with a hard fought but disapointing shutout loss, Zunino stepped to the plate.

Zunino sure can hit some majestic bombs. But this was just a spark. It set the stage for what would come one inning later.

With the score 3-1, the Angels a mere 6 out away from victory, the Rays turned to a plucky hero who seems to find his way into big moments an awful lot: Brett Maverick Phillips

First Brett slapped a solid single. Up next was Randy Arozarena with a chance to tie it with one swing. But Randy has a good eye, and took ball 4. Well, at least that’s what he thought. Of course, that’s also what the cameras, the digital strike zone, and anybody with eyes thought. Randy didn’t like the strike call, visibly so. But the best revenge is sometimes immediate and crushing: in this case, a smashed double to the wall on the next pitch to drive home Phillips from 1st.

Up next was Manual Margot, who delivered the game tying RBI single. And with that, Maddon thought his reliever Mike Mayers did enough damage and turned to the former Rays legend (or should I say Slegend): Aaron Slegers.

We might remember, the extremely tall Slegers is quite slow to the plate. Margot certainly did, and quickly swiped 2nd base to move into scoring position. After Austin Meadows would work a tough full-count walk, up stepped Yandy Diaz to try and give the Rays the lead. Well, the Rays did take the lead with Yandy at the plate, but not in a way that words can do justice. Just watch:

Was that a risky move for Margot to take two bases on the wild pitch and potentially make the first out at home? Sure. Was it cool as hell? Absolutely.

Yandy would deliver another run on a single just past the drawn-in infield. More singles from Joey Wendle and Mike Zunino knocked in a few more runs. And then to cap off a complete bat around the order, the man who started the inning off was back to deliver the coup de grâce:

A 7 run inning to not only make a comeback but deliver a sweep of the Angels with authority.

Now that’s a good ending. Heros win in cinematic fashion. Roll credits.

Post Credits

The Rays kinda needed one of these games. A game where they weren’t their best, but they kept fighting, kept at it, and eventually broke through. The Rays are not 3 games above .500 and finally back into the positive in run differential for the season.

By the way, if you are reading this while it’s still dark out, you get one DRaysBuck for being dedicated enough to stay up late and watch the Rays mount an all-out assault on the Angels bullpen. The DRaysBuck is equivalent to about 3 SchruteBucks, and redeemable at BucsNation and RawCharge.