The Tampa Bay Rays continue to assert their dominance over the Baltimore Orioles this season with a 8-4 win over their fellow AL East team.
The Rays started Louis Head as the opener for tonight’s game against Spenser Watkins for the Orioles. Additionally, the Rays reinstated Ryan Yarbrough from the COVID-19 injured list prior to tonight’s game.
Let's do it again#RaysUp pic.twitter.com/IMoSJIiMjX— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 18, 2021
Have you ever had a can opener that opened all of the can but couldn’t break the final piece of the metal lid? That’s what Head’s performance felt like as tonight’s opener. He got to strike two and then struggled to get the third strike.
Cedric Mullins was batting leadoff for the Orioles and after falling behind in the count 0-2 he hit a solo home run (EV 99.5, LA 27, 392 feet). After striking out the next two batters, Head had Austin Hays with a 1-2 count that turned into a single followed by Pedro Severino taking a 3-2 count for a RBI single scoring Hays. Head was able to strike out Jorge Mateo to get out of his only inning of duty trailing 2-0 after getting to strike two on every batter faced.
The Rays would not be down for long. Wander Franco and Nelson Cruz hit back to back singles following Brandon Lowe groundout to give the Rays two runners with one out. Following a Randy Arozarena walk Ji-Man Choi hit a line drive to right scoring Franco and Cruz before getting caught between first and second to close out the first inning tied 2-2.
Ji-Man Choi drives in 2 on a single before getting tagged out on his way to 2nd! @RaysBaseball tied with the Orioles 2-2! #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/5N0HBfTfXk— Bally Sports Sun: Rays (@BallyRays) August 18, 2021
Ryan Yarbrough came in to pitch in relief of head in the second inning. Maikel Franco was up first for the Orioles and he worked an 11-pitch at-bat including five consecutive fouls before striking out. Yarbrough would only need four additional pitches to get Austin Wynns to flyout and Richie Martin to groundout to end the inning.
Yarbrough was very effective in his return from the injured list. He finished with 5.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 SO, and 0 HR on 70 pitches. His velocity was down during the game but he still provided an efficient start that you would not be able to tell he was out for about two weeks.
Yarbrough’s velocity is way down across the board tonight. This is his first start off of the COVID list, side effects may have something to do with this. He’s throwing it very well tonight though, 4 scoreless. pic.twitter.com/8s9GszynsL— Rays Metrics (@RaysMetrics) August 19, 2021
The Rays offense fired back up in the bottom of the fourth starting with a leadoff double from Joey Wendle. Lowe would score Wendle a RBI single on a first-pitch changeup to bring the game within a run. After Lowe stole second base, Wander Franco extended the Rays lead with a RBI-double scoring Lowe. Rays lead 4-2 after four.
Go ahead and double that lead pic.twitter.com/2j8O9JngYd— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 19, 2021
Tanner Scott replaced Spenser Watkins on the mound for the Orioles in the fifth inning. Waktins’ final line was 4.0 IP, 8 H , 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO and 0 HR on 74 pitches thrown.
Aside from walking Arozarena and moving him to second by a wild pitch, Scott had decent performance in the fifth getting Meadows to pop out, Choi to groundout, and Wendle to strikeout.
Scott was lifted in the bottom of the sixth and replaced by Paul Fry. Francisco Mejia reached first safely on a Ramon Urias throwing error to help keep getting Rays’ hitters on base. Fry then walked Kevin Kiermaier and Lowe to load the bases for the Rays. The Orioles sent in Dillon Tate to replace Fry with the bases loaded. A Franco single and sacrifice flies from Nelson Cruz and Austin Meadows and things quickly escalated to a 7-2 lead for the Rays really quickly.
Andrew Kittredge was on the mound to relieve Yarbrough and got Severino on a called third strike. He would then go on to give up three straight singles to Jorge Mateo, Maikel Franco, and Austin Wynns ultimately scoring Mateo. Rays’ lead was trimmed to 7-3.
Rays reliever Shawn Armstrong was next on the mound against his former team and started off getting Ramon Urias to groundout. Ryan Mountcastle was up next and took a low slider from Armstrong and sent it over the fence for his 20th home run of the season (98.2 EV, 30 LA, 383 feet) to bring the Orioles in striking distance for an improbable comeback that never happened.
The Rays countered in the bottom of the eighth with another run that would ultimately be the final run of the game after Kevin Kiermaier scored on an Austin Meadows ground-rule double that bounced off the foul pole in left field.
It’s important the Rays won this game that they were supposed to win. As the regular season draws to a close and the Yankees and Red Sox are playing head-to-head the Rays cannot afford to drop a game to the Orioles. Thanks to solid performances from Ryan Yarbrough, Brandon Lowe and Wander Franco the Rays were in command of this game despite the early setback.
The Rays look for the series sweep tomorrow afternoon at 1:10pm ET with Shane McClanahan scheduled to start for the Rays against Jorge Lopez for the Orioles.