The Tampa Bay Rays continue to not only score runs but score big runs in late innings this season and they did not stop tonight as they sealed their season sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies with a 7-4 victory Wednesday night. This marks the fourth time in franchise history have they swept a season series when playing multiple series against a club.
The game also marked the final Interleague game the Rays will have on the road and they sent Ryan Yarbrough to the mound opposite Zack Wheeler for the Phillies.
One last game without the DH for the '21 regular season pic.twitter.com/FVd3jKaR1S— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 25, 2021
Things got off to a slow start for both teams in the first inning. Zack Wheeler needed only eight pitches to retire the Rays hitters in order. Ryan Yarbrough also had a good first inning, only allowing a single to Bryce Harper and getting out of the inning on only 10 pitches thrown.
Things were at-risk to get out of hand in the second inning for the Rays. The Phillies quickly had bases loaded following a lead-off single from Andrew McCutchen, a walk to Freddy Galvis, and ground ball single from Ronald Torreyes. After a mound visit, Yarbrough got Luke Williams to ground into a double play, though, McCutchen scored from third to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. That brought the pitcher to the plate and Wheeler almost helped his own cause if not for Randy Arozarena making a fantastic defensive play.
The Rays offense started clicking in the top of the fourth inning starting with a double from Wander Franco off the glove of Rhys Hoskins. A McCutchen fielding error in the next at-bat allowed Joey Wendle to make it to second and scored Franco to tie the game at one run. Later in the inning a Yandy Diaz single would score Wendle and give the Rays an early 2-1 lead.
The Rays extended their lead in the fifth inning as Brandon Lowe became the first second baseman to hit 30 home runs in a season, extending his franchise single-season record.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Wheeler hit a line drive off Yarbrough for a single that would be the final hitter Yarbrough would face. Yarbrough finished with 4.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K on 55 pitches. Shawn Armstrong came in the game in relief of Yarbrough and on his third batter gave up an absolute bomb to Bryce Harper, tying the game 3-3.
As per usual, there was a lot of reaction on social media to Kevin Cash pulling a pitcher when people perceive it to be too early in a game.
Kevin Cash pushes the wrong button as Bryce Harper launches a titanic blast to CF off Shawn Armstrong to tie the game at 3 B5...Yarbrough got Bindered...— John Farrell (@JJFarrell451) August 26, 2021
As we headed into the late innings, there was the feeling the Rays would find a way to provide some keep their scoring streak alive and they did not disappoint. Franco got his second hit of the game off the glove of a Phillies defender as he got a single just off the tip of a diving Juan Segura. Wendle made it back-to-back singles and Franco advanced to third with Arozarena coming to the plate. Randy would groundout to second but it was enough to bring Franco across the plate and give the Rays a 4-3 lead.
Colin McHugh came in to pitch for the Rays in the bottom of the eighth having not allowed an earned run in his last 17 appearances including three starts. The longest streak in franchise history without an earned run came to an end as Rhys Hoskins hit a solo home run with two outs to tie the game 4-4.
Zack Wheeler was still in the game in the ninth inning which on one hand makes sense since he was below 100 pitches. However, the odds start tipping in the batters favor the more times through the order and the Rays were ready. Diaz started things off with a leadoff single representing a potential go-ahead run. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a double on an 0-2 count with a ground ball to left field that moved Diaz over to third with no outs. Then Francisco Mejia stepped to mound and after falling behind 0-2 as well, he absolutely launched a 96.9 MPH slider from Wheeler for a three-run home run (103.1 EV, 31 LA, 409 ft) to give the Rays a 7-3 lead.
Second deck nuke to take the lead in the 9th. pic.twitter.com/QgM9DS4TKS— MLB (@MLB) August 26, 2021
Just that fast, the narrative of the game shifted from Yarbrough being pulled too soon to Wheeler being left in too long (102 pitches).
Girardi dawg, I though Cash was bad when he pulled Yarbrough. But leaving wheeler in for that long is just criminal.— Hunter Hart (@_harthunter) August 26, 2021
What a game! The late bloomers keep on late blooming. It really felt like this game was destined for extra innings but the late-inning runs continue to deliver for the Rays.
The Rays are off tomorrow and return Friday against the Baltimore Orioles at 7:05pm ET. Shane McClanahan will be the probable starter as the Rays look to continue their dominance over Baltimore this season.