The Tampa Bay Rays continued alternating wins and losses in their four games since the All-Star break with a win tonight over the Baltimore Orioles following last night’s 6-1 loss.
The Rays had a late lineup change as Yandy Diaz was scratched after leaving Monday night’s game with neck spasms. Ji-Man Choi started in place of Diaz at first base.
They say baseball gives you something you’ve never seen before if you watch long enough and tonight was no different. This recap is focused on the events of the game but would be incomplete without mentioning the historic first all-woman broadcast crew in MLB history. It was refreshing to watch a national broadcast that included a broadcast crew that clearly was well-versed in the Rays organization, players, and strategies.
Trailblazers.— MLB (@MLB) July 21, 2021
The first all-woman broadcast crew in MLB history! pic.twitter.com/2q94k7l5h4
Shane McClanahan made his 14th start of the season for the Rays and his first against the Orioles. Opposite McClanahan was John Means for Baltimore making his 13th start of the season. Means went 6.1 innings in a May 19 start against the Rays and gave up six hits and four runs as the Rays won 7-9.
McClanahan got off to a good start early only allowing a leadoff single to Cedric Mullins. After getting Austin Hays to flyout and Trey Mancini to strikeout, Mullins was caught stealing at second to end the inning.
Randy Arozarena ledoff for the Rays and set the tone for the offense and the game with a leadoff double. Vidal Brujan followed with a single to left field that Arozarena hustled into a run to give the Rays a quick 1-0 lead. Wander Franco would make it a 2-0 lead with a sacrifice fly scoring Brujan. Brandon Lowe tried to keep it going with a double but a Francisco Mejia flyout would end the inning.
Randy Arozarena - Tampa Bay Rays (11) pic.twitter.com/0BgZ0Ux7Gj— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) July 21, 2021
Things got temporarily shaky for McClanahan in the second. After striking out Ryan Mountcastle he gave up a first-pitch double to Anthony Santander. A wild pitch allowed Santander to advance to third and he would score on a Pedro Severino line drive to trim the Rays lead to 2-1. Following the single, McClanahan walked Pat Valaika and hit Kelving Gutierrez with a 91 MPH slider to load the bases. He got out of giving up the potentially big inning by striking out Mullins to preserve a 2-1 lead.
Means looked better in the bottom of the second and retired the Ji-Man Choi, Taylor Walls, and Kevin Kiermaier in order.
The Rays defense started the top of the third with a fielding error from Ji-Man Choi that allowed Austin Hays to reach safely. Mancini then hit a single to move Hays to second, though, that would be the end of the offense for the Orioles in the inning after a Mountcastle strikeout and Santander grounded into a double play.
In the bottom of the third, Arozarena was leading off again came through in a big way for the Rays crushing a home run (EV 104.3, LA 25, 418ft) to center field to give the Rays a 3-1 lead.
The Rays continued to escape potentially problematic defensive struggles in the fourth. Ramon Urias reached safely on a fielding error from Brujan and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. McClanahan recovered by getting Severino and Valaika on back-to-back strikeouts and gets out of the inning on a Kelvin Gutierrez flyout to Lowe.
Fresh off the defensive play, Lowe gave the Rays their first baserunner of the fourth with a single. Francisco Mejia crushed a means changeup for a two-run homer (EV 102, LA 26, 412 ft) extending the Rays lead to 5-1.
Francisco Mejia - Tampa Bay Rays (4) pic.twitter.com/jOd1dwnKs9— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) July 21, 2021
Outside of pitching changes and Brujan showing some range at second base, things calmed down over the next few innings. McClanahan finished with 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K and a career-high 93 pitches. Means finished with 5.0 IP, 7H, 5 ER, 2K, and 78 pitches.
Things started to get interesting again in the eighth inning, if only for a moment. The Rays added two more errors that contributed to allowing the Orioles to score two runs on a Mountcastle sacrifice fly and Santander double to trim the Rays lead to 5-3.
Shaun Anderson was in to pitch for the Orioles in the bottom of the eighth. The Rays loaded the bases after Brujan reached on error, Meadows hit a single, and Lowe walked bringing Mejia to the plate. Mejia took an Anderson slider and cleared the bases and any remaining hopes the Orioles had in this game increasing the Rays lead to 8-3. Choi immediately followed with a RBI-single, scoring Mejia, to make it a 9-3 lead that would become the final score of the game.
The Rays keep finding ways to win games by getting contributions from the full depth of their roster. You wouldn’t think Mejia was the backup catcher after he put on a 5 RBI performance.
These two teams close out the series tomorrow afternoon at 12:10 ET. The Rays have won every series so far in July and look to keep the streak going.