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Rays 5, Cleveland 4: Down, but never out.

Starting the series strong.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Indians David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Sadly, friends, there was not enough time for Nelson Cruz to get to Cleveland in time to join the Rays for tonight’s game, but soon enough we’ll get to gleefully discuss what he’s offering on a nightly basis.

If you missed the live broadcast tonight, Erik Neander chatted with Dewayne and Brian Anderson about the big trade.

The game got off to a slow start, though the Rays looked good out of the gate. To lead off the first inning, Brandon Lowe drew a walk. Arozarena then grounded into a fielder’s choice to eliminate Lowe. Franco singled to keep things going, but the next two batters were eliminated in order, ending the inning with two men aboard. In the bottom of the second, Rays starter Luis Patiño gave up a leadoff single to Hernandez, then erased the rest of the side in order, no harm no foul.

In the second, a Yandy Diaz single got things started, but again, no further men got aboard, no runs scored. To balance it out in the bottom of the inning Bradley walked, but the next three batters were set down in order.

Lowe singled to lead off the third, but was once again erased by a fielder’s choice, this time on a Franco ground ball. No runners scored. In the bottom of the third things started to hear up for Cleveland. Mercado started things off with a double, then Jose Ramirez was intentionally walked. A Reyes three-run home run drew first blood and it was a deep cut. The inning ended on a strikeout after the homer, but the damage was certainly done.

The Rays looked to get something back in the top of the fourth, as Diaz hit a nice triple, and was then driven home by a Kiermaier sac fly. It was enough to cut the lead to two, but they were unable to get anything else done in the inning. The bottom of the inning saw Harold Ramirez kick things off with a single, then successfully steal second to put himself in scoring position. A Johnson groundout advanced Ramirez to third, and he was then able to score on a Hedges sac fly. Mercado was able to reach on a Franco fielding error, but the inning ended on the next batter.

Walls drew a walk to kick off the fifth, but sadly was the only man to get aboard in the inning. Jose Ramirez got another walk in the bottom of the inning, then successfully stole second, and no I’m not just repeating myself from the fourth, these are different Ramirezes. Ramiri? Anyway, same series of moves, different dudes. Anyway, it was a scoreless inning.

Meadows walked to lead off the sixth, but was caught stealing, eliminating the baserunner. The remainder of the inning didn’t get the Rays any closer to scoring another run. After giving up a single in the bottom of the sixth, that was the end of the day for Patiño, replaced by Chris Mazza. The outing for Patiño looked a little like this: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HR on 98 pitches. Score aside it wasn’t the ugliest outing I’ve ever seen. The inning ended with no further damage from Cleveland.

Mejia hit a darned-near home run in the seventh that he legged out into a triple (two triples in one night?), and Walls grounded out to bring the catcher home, cutting the Rays deficit to two runs. Onto the bottom of the inning, Rosario drew a walk with one out, then advanced to second on a wild pitch from Mazza. Good news though, no runs scored.

Franco got an infield single in the top of the eighth, but that was it for either side in the entire inning in terms of putting runners on the paths.

It came down to the top of the ninth for the Rays, and Yandy Diaz was not ready to lose, hitting a leadoff solo home run to cut the Cleveland lead to one.

Kiermaier and Mejia made solid efforts, but no luck. It was all up to a pinch-hitting Ji-Man Choi. Choi managed to draw a walk to put the go-ahead run aboard with Lowe coming up. Brett Phillips came in as the pinch-runner. Lowe hit a long double off the wall, scoring the speedy Phillips and tying the game. The Rays didn’t get the go-ahead, but they did end the half at a tie.

Pete Fairbanks came on for the ninth. The first out of the inning was a catch by Fairbanks himself after he failed to get out of Yandy Diaz’s way on an infield pop up. Fairbanks for the first two outs pretty quickly but the Rosario at-bat felt like it lasted roughly 700 pitches before he finally struck out. Onward to extras!

Meadows, with one out, singled to center and scored default baserunner (aka Manfred Man) Arozarena, giving the Rays the lead. Diaz hit a single to advance Meadows to third, and the ball got thrown away to let Diaz advance to second, but there was no scoring move for Meadows on the play. Ultimately the Rays weren’t able to bring Meadows home, but now they were just three outs from a win.

Castillo was on to pitch for the 10th. A Jose Ramirez fly moved Cleveland’s Manfred Man, Rosario, to third base. Then a much-needed strikeout to Reyes. Two out. Castillo collected the final strikeout, getting the save, Fairbanks collected the win. Rays take it in extras.

Final: Rays 5, Cleveland 4