Ah, yes, the familiarity of a nice, normal, non-All-Star baseball game. Don’t get me wrong, I love the All-Star Game, I love seeing the enthusiasm and fun of it, but there’s nothing quite like getting back into the swing of things when regular games start up again.
This time around, it was an interleague matchup between the Rays and Braves, and it had a little something for everyone. You like dingers? Check. Like old friend alerts? Got plenty of those. Want things kept exciting with an ever-changing lead? Yup!
Michael Wacha got the nod for the Rays, and was up against former Rays starter Charlie Morton. The first inning was an evenly-matched affair. Morton sat his former teammates down in order to start the inning, then in the bottom of the first Wacha allowed a single to Freeman, but then Albies hit into a wild fielder’s choice in which Taylor Walls managed to scoop a ball from his glove over to Franco in time to get Freeman out, it was a pretty slick play. The inning ended on the next batter.
In the second inning saw the Rays beat Morton up a bit. A leadoff hit by pitch of Meadows put a man aboard, then Wendle hit a double, letting Meadows advance to third. A Kiermaier single scored Meadows, and there were still no outs in the inning. Zunino grounded out to third, scoring Wendle. Walls and Lowe both walked, but no additional runs scored for the inning. In the bottom of the inning Wacha gave up a leadoff walk to Arcia, but the Braves were unable to take back any runs.
The third inning was an evenly matched affair of two 1-2-3 halves.
The Rays continued to hammer Morton in the fourth, with a Zunino walk and a Walls double, but unfortunately, they were unable to pad the lead. It was extra disappointing when the bottom of the inning came along and the Braves started to heat up. Albies walked to lead off the inning, then Riley smashed a two-run homer to tie things up. Then Swanson got a solo shot of his own, giving the Braves the lead. Wacha finished off the rest of the order, but the damage was definitely done.
Not satisfied to go quietly into that good Atlanta night, Ji-Man Choi led off the top of the fifth with a solo home run, reclaiming the lead (temporarily) for the Rays. Wendle singled, Kiermaier singled and then successfully stole second, but no further runs scores. Still, solid outings for Wendle and Kiermaier tonight.
The lead was short-lived, as Almonte singled to lead off the bottom of the inning, which was the end of the day for Wacha, whose final line for the day was 4.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HR on 78 pitches. He was replaced by JP Feyereisen, and Freddie Freeman subsequently knocked a two-run blast over the wall giving the Braves a 5-3 lead. Riley walked, but Feyereisen was able to limit any extra damage.
The Rays went down in order in the top of the six, and Feyereisen being swapped for Brujan in the order was a solid sign the Rays didn’t want to try that experiment again in the bottom of the inning. Drew Rasmussen was the third Rays pitcher of the evening and set the Braves down in order.
With one out in the top of the seventh Wander Franco absolutely went into turbo drive, hustling out a triple (his first career triple). A Meadows sac fly brought Franco home, bringing the score within one. Wendle drew the walk on four pitches after almost being hit by a wayward pitch. Minter balked, but you almost feel bad calling it a balk because he clearly twisted his ankle mid-delivery, but it did advance Wendle. The Braves changed the pitcher, and the first pitch from Jackson hit Zunino to load the bases. Sadly, Walls lined into an out and they were unable to tie things up.
Freeman, having quite the night himself, got a single in the bottom of the seventh. Then with two outs, Riley hit a single, advancing Freeman to third. Arcia then singled to score Freeman, giving the Braves a two-run lead.
I know I don’t watch enough Braves games because I somehow missed that there’s a reliever named Chris Martin and it’s a shame he’s not on a team that wears more yellow. (This, friends, is a very bad Coldplay joke, and I appreciate the two readers who chuckled.)
OH HEY GUYS BRETT PHILLIPS IS IN THE GAME. (My enthusiasm is unwarranted, as he only hit a flyout, but I still love you, Brett.) Lowe got a single, then Franco singled, and with two outs, Meadows singled after a lengthy battle, to score Lowe. Wendle, continuing to have a heck of a night, hit an infield single to score Franco, and wow that was a close call, but the Rays tied it up.
Tie ballgame again courtesy of Joey Wendle pic.twitter.com/ypN22br00j— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 17, 2021
The Rays kept the Braves quiet in the bottom of the eighth, and the game headed into the ninth tied 6-6. Mike Zunino juuuuuuuuuust about hit one out, but no such luck. Sadly no runs scored in the top of the inning, so the Rays best hope was to keep the tie going into extras. Freeman collected a one-out single, his fourth hit of the night, but it was an impressive effort from Choi trying to stop the ball in its path well off first. A wild pitch allowed Freeman to steal second. With luck, though, the inning ended on the next batter with no score, and the game headed to extras.
Things took a positive turn in the top of the tenth, with Phillips as the default runner, then Lowe drew a walk to put two on. The next two batters were retired, leaving two on with two out, and Austin Meadows singled, driving Phillips home and giving the Rays the lead. Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks quickly collected the first two outs of the inning and then it was all down to debut pinch hitter Joc Pederson, who grounded out, and the Rays collected the win.
Final: Rays 7, Braves 6