Apologies, baseball pundits. After last night’s blowout game you had pre-written your tales of Red Sox rebounds. They won! They scored twenty runs! A new day had dawned, one where the scuffling Red Sox had turned a corner and were driving full steam ahead to their rightful place atop the division. The Rays, after all, don’t even have a real starting rotation! They roll out a bunch of no-name openers!
I’m sorry that today’s 8-1 Rays victory, anchored by a bunch of no-name pitchers you probably have to Google, forces you to tear up those drafts.
For Rays fans, however, this has to be one of the more satisfying wins of the season. Yes, it’s a series win. Yes, it maintains the team’s five game lead in the division.
But perhaps more importantly, it provides evidence of a team that can lose in the biggest and most embarrassing possible fashion and then come back to dominate in a cleanly played, well pitched game.
The Rays Drew Rasmussen and the Red Sox Tanner Houck (who wins the “great baseball name” award of the day) exchanged a few quick zeroes, and then Kevin “every day I’m hustling” Kiermaier worked his magic to create a threat in the third. He singled just past second basemanHernandez, stole second and took third when catcher Plawecki’s throw ended up in centerfield. He scored on a sac fly for a 1-0 lead. The fly wasn’t deep and I thought the Red Sox could at least have a play at the plate, but Duran’s throw could not have been worse. You could argue that KK’s speed forced bad throws from the catcher and the centerfielder and led to a run.
Rasmussen breezed through the third and earned himself a fourth inning, and perhaps at that point Cash got just a little greedy. Rasmussen walked leadoff batter Enrique Hernandez, had a few deep counts and fly balls but at least had gotten to two outs. But Devers hit a double that bounced around centerfield long enough to allow the tying run to score. Overall, however, Rasmussen’s outing was a very good one.
But then it was Alex Cora who got greedy. Houck, who had previously been limited to a few innings, had enjoyed a sharp and quick five innings; with his pitch count under control Cora evidently decided to have him start the sixth even though he’d be facing the lineup for the third time.
Cue the foreboding music.
Brandon Lowe led off with a single that just got by the shift. That brought up Wander Franco, who was quickly down 1-2. If I had not known Franco was a high ceiling player before today this at bat would have convinced me. He proceeded to spoil five decent pitches while spitting on two out of the zone, getting to a full count. Pitch 11 was launched into the green monster. There was some back and forth about whether it was a double or a home run, that was resolved in favor of the Rays. You can see for yourself here:
Even the Green Monster couldn't contain this one pic.twitter.com/EKfyeJe6dm— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 12, 2021
Next batter, Nelson Cruz, doubled and that ended Houck’s day but let’s be clear — Franco’s at bat turned Houck’s sharp, low-pitch count outing into a completely different game.
A few pitching changes and walks later, run number four scored on a balk.
Collin McHugh continued his scoreless streak for another two innings, and the rest of the Rays bullpen would go on to finish the game off.
Meanwhile, however, the Rays were not done scoring. Wendle hit a ball to that crazy cut out in centerfield, and ended up with a stand up triple. He scored on a sac fly. Yandy Diaz was walked intentionally and Kevin Kiermaier, who had himself a day, doubled. Then Mike Zunino showed us how to get a ball out of Fenway Park: 112.2 mph, 423 feet. That put the Rays up by a comfortable 8-1.
I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness, however, seeing the reaction of reliever Rios, who gave up that bomb:
Stars of the game:
Kevin Kiermaier: Because the open-shirted wonder had a great day at the plate and on the basepaths and played his usual solid defense. Also even when you score eight that first one is key.
Wander Franco: See “at-bat of the year” above. Also, because I loved seeing him take charge on an infield popup as a shortstop should do. Also, because I liked the way he pounded the ground in frustration when he failed to turn a ninth inning double play. Sure the Rays were up 8-1, sure he did get one out, but when you aim to be the best you aren’t satisfied with good enough.
All the pitchers! But let’s pick Drew Rasmussen because his first three innings were exactly the shutdown the team needed after yesterday’s debacle.