Well, it wasn’t always pretty. But your first place Tampa Bay Rays rallied late and rallied big as they knocked off the Baltimore Orioles 9-6. With the Rays win and losses by the Red Sox and Yankees, Tampa Bay has opened up leads of four games and six and a half games, respectively, with the Blue Jays entering the mix seven games back. The Rays have the day off tomorrow before traveling to Boston for a three game set that has the potential to land a devastating blow to the Red Sox division hopes.
Back to today, Michael Wacha got the start against Jorge López.
Here's a look at today's #RaysUp starting lineup. Who's primed for a big afternoon⁉️ pic.twitter.com/uLZt0413IN— Bally Sports Sun: Rays (@BallyRays) August 8, 2021
Matinee against the Rays. pic.twitter.com/BuEsfXlqdJ— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 8, 2021
Things did not start well. In the Oriole half of the first, Cedric Mullins took a down and in first pitch fastball and drove it out to right.
A 20-20 season for @cedmull30. pic.twitter.com/Yf7MQYhERk— MLB (@MLB) August 8, 2021
Wacha gave up a couple more hits (singles) in the first, in addition to Joey Wendle committing an error. But Wacha managed to keep the Os at just the lone run, thanks in part to some bad baserunning from Mancini.
The Orioles put up two more in the second, and it could have easily been more. The rally started when Wacha plunked Mateo, who promptly stole second. Richie Martin plated him with a single. A Wynns single put runners at the corners. Again, the Rays were nearly bailed out by Oriole baserunning when Mullins lined into a 4-3 double play. Unfortunately, Hays followed by lining a single through the middle to make it 3-0.
The Rays first threat came in the third when Mejía tripled to right with one out. BLowe followed with a single through the middle, scoring Franky.
Brandon Lowe and the @RaysBaseball chip away at the Orioles' 3-0 lead. ⛏️— Bally Sports Sun: Rays (@BallyRays) August 8, 2021
: Bally Sports Sun
: Bally Sports app#RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/f8ipKLHkNF
Unfortunately, the O’s got the run right back in the bottom of the frame when Santander homered to center.
Leading off the top of the fourth, Meadows followed a foul ball homer with a fair ball homer.
The Rays caught another break in the bottom of the inning. Martin led off with a single, but was caught stealing. A double to left by Wynns followed, and would have scored Martin easily. But again, Wacha looked the gift horse in the mouth and gave up a two out, run scoring single by Hays. 5-2
After finally working a clean inning in the fifth, Wacha was done. 5 IP, 10 hits, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 Ks. DJ Johnson took over, but evidently Wacha left some bad luck behind. After retiring the first two Orioles, Johnson went down in a heap with an apparent injury while pitching to Mullins.
The @RaysBaseball rush out to check on RHP DJ Johnson after going down with an apparent injury.— Bally Sports Sun: Rays (@BallyRays) August 8, 2021
Johnson does walk off into the locker room. pic.twitter.com/dzze5zxSZE
It was later reported to be “right shoulder discomfort.”
#Rays Cash said Johnson said he felt that something “cracked” in his shoulder - “not popped” - and he is being sent back to St. Pete for further evaluation.— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) August 8, 2021
Mullins would eventually reach on a walk, but Chargois got out of the inning with no further damage.
Lòpez was done after six and was replaced by Rays legend Cole Sulser. With two outs, Brett Phillips homered to left center, cutting the Baltimore lead to two.
You know you're getting big smiles when @Brett_Phillips8 homers! ☄️— Bally Sports Sun: Rays (@BallyRays) August 8, 2021
: Bally Sports Sun
: Bally Sports app#RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/d4M1rwOVnu
Things really came apart for the Os in the eighth. Against lefty Paul Fry, Lowe led off with a single, followed by walks from Luplow and Cruz to load the bases. Meadows then popped out to short, but Wander worked a great at bat and finished off Paul Fry’s no good very bad day with an RBBI. 5-4 Os, bases still loaded for new Os pitcher Dillon Tate.
Yandy Diaz pinch hit for Wendle and lifted a fly to medium center, scoring Luplow.
Tate walked Margot to reload the bases before Brett Phillips provided the dagger. Following in the Meadows model of hitting a foul ball homer before a fair ball homer, Brett hooked one out to right before lofting one to left that just kept going. Second dinger of the day for the Maverick, and this one a Grand Salami!
Can we interest you in a @Brett_Phillips8 go-ahead GRAND SLAM? pic.twitter.com/UCEwZW1ah9— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) August 8, 2021
Slider-Man Matt Wisler got the bottom of the inning for the Rays and worked a clean frame.
Ryan Sherriff got the ninth and struggled a bit, surrendering a run on a hit batter and a double, before shutting the door.
Your Three Stars of the Game
All of these are from the pivotal top of the eighth, since that really was the game.
3. Brandon Lowe: Facing an unfavorable left on left matchup, he leads off the inning with a single and starts the conveyor belt.
2. Wander Franco: Though he was 0 for 4 for the day, Wander worked a brilliant at bat in the eighth, coming back from 1-2 to draw a walk and keep the parade going.
1. Brett Phillips. Duh.