Its been a busy 24 hours since the last Rays’ game. Nelson Cruz officially acquired. Rich Hill traded away, and the Cleveland Indians are now called the Cleveland Guardians.
The Rays lineup: now with more Boomstick pic.twitter.com/hW8prCuLni— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 23, 2021
Rays and Cruz opened up the first inning uneventfully, with Ji-Man Choi hitting a floater for an out, and Cruz grounding out, although I was surprised how quickly Cruz hustled down the line, even on a simple ground out.
2nd inning Yandy Diaz and Wander Franco were able to get on base with only 1 out and Randy Arozarena up to the plate. Instead of trying to write what happened, I’m just going to post the video:
A series of errors allows Randy to get an inside the park HR*. In the words of Dewayne Staats: “I have never seen that. Ever. That was Uncanny”
So the Rays just came up with 3 runs on one hit from Randy Arozarena (who scored) & I'm still trying to figure out how that happened.— Tricia Whitaker (@TriciaWhitaker) July 23, 2021
Not sure I've ever seen something like that before but hey, we'll take it.
*as of this writing it was a little league HR but will probably be a single with three errors?
Rays are quickly up 3-0!
Wander Franco showed off the arm and the defense for the first two outs. The Indians got their first hit, but Fleming got Austin Hedges to ground out to end the 2nd inning.
Nelson Cruz wasted no time in the top of the 3rd inning, taking the 3rd pitch from Zach Plesac and depositing it over the right field fences for his first HR as a Ray.
Off the bat it looked like it might not get out of the park. Even Nelson Cruz wasn’t sure and was HUSTLING out of the box. Didn’t matter as it cleared the right field wall and the Rays take a 4-0 lead off the Boomstick!
Josh Fleming got into some trouble with a walk to Cesar Hernandez and a Amed Rosario single to put two runners on with only 1 out, and bringing up Jose Ramirez. Just after Brian Anderson talked about middle up and middle in being in Jose Ramirez’s wheelhouse, Josh Fleming decided to test that theory and threw a cutter in the upper middle part of the strike zone.
And Jose Ramirez crushed it for a 3 run HR.
The Indians get a little closer and its 4-3 Rays.
Josh Fleming’s night would be done after 4 innings, giving up the 3 runs, 6 hits, 2 walks and 1 strikeout.
Andrew Kittredge took over to face Rosario, JRam, and Franmil Reyes. A few long fly balls, nothing scary, and most importantly: no damage.
Rays still lead 4-3 after 5.
In the top of the 7th inning, Brandon Lowe hit a double with only one out, Ji-Man Choi hit a ball that looked like it would drop down for a single, but Bradley Zimmer closed on it quickly and was able to make the out.
After 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB and 0 Ks Kittredge was lifted for Matt Wisler. Cesar Hernandez single between a Ernie Clement Flyout and a Amed Rosario strikeout to bring up Jose Ramirez.
JRam triples to even the score at 4.
Wisler wasn’t affected too much, as he got Franmil Reyes to fly out in foul territory to stop the rally. Cash let Wisler back out for the 8th inning, and strikes out the side for a 1-2-3 inning.
Besides the triple to JRam, Wisler had a great night going 2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB and 4 Ks.
Going into the 9th inning, there isn’t any doubt that the Rays have a chance. And boy, did they prove that tonight. Randy Arozarena singled and Kevin Kiermaier got “hit by a pitch on his toe” to put two runners on to open the 9th inning. I say “hit by a pitch on his toe” because it skipped across Kiermaier’s right foot and grazed his shoelaces . It was just enough movement that when Indians’ manager Terry Francona asked for the review, it was upheld.
Kevin Cash pinch hit Joey Wendle for Mike Zunino, and Wendle singled to bring Randy home and give the Rays’ a 5-4 lead!
Brandon Lowe flew out for the first out, which brought Ji-Man Choi to the plate. And Choi wanted to make sure Nelson Cruz didn’t feel alone at his new job.
Choi breaks it open with a 3-run HR and the Rays lead 8 - 4!
Nelson Cruz was the next batter, and worked a 4 pitch walk. Usually not something worth noting. However, on the next play, Nelson Cruz hustled from 1st to 3rd on a Brett Phillips single, and a really underrated base running play. I am still shocked how quickly Cruz moves for a DH of his age. Rays had Cruz on third and Phillips on first with Yandy Diaz at the plate.
With only one out, Diaz hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Amed Rosario in what typically would be a double play.
Except with the hit and run on, Phillips in Motion, and Cruz with a good jump to home, Rosario’s only play was to first for the 2nd out. 9-4 Rays.
The heads up base running and surprising speed/hustle of Nelson Cruz put into perspective why the Rays coveted the veteran slugger, and also showed that Cruz isn’t just a pretty bat.
Wander Franco singled for his 3rd hit of the game, and brought home Phillips from 2nd to give the Rays their 10th(!) run of the game, and the 5th in the inning.
After the hit parade in the 9th, Cash went to Pete Fairbanks for the bottom of the 9th. Besides a solo HR to Daniel Johnson (not that one), Fairbanks got a strikeout, fly out and a groundout to secure the Rays win.
Three great things from this Rays Win:
- Nelson Cruz, obviously. Between the solo homer, and the hustling on the base paths, even on groundouts and home runs is really impressive.
- Wander Franco: From one end of the age spectrum to the other, Franco went 3 for 5 with no strikeouts.
- Joey Wendle: He got the rally started with a pinch hit RBI single and give back the lead to the Rays.
Rays move to 59-39, and move up to right now 0.5 games behind Boston for the AL East lead.
Game 3 is tomorrow at 7:10 PM.