As a writer who contributes to multiple SB Nation sites, I live in a general sense of terror that one day I will publish a recap on the wrong team’s blog. Well, friends, we’re finally in a series where it wouldn’t matter! As a belated birthday gift to me, the scheduling gods have given me a Rays/Tigers series for the weekend and I’m delighted.
So how did things shake out for game one? Anyone else think that a Tyler Alexander/Michael Wacha start would shake out into a bit of a pitchers’ duel? I sure didn’t, but this game stayed tight and scoreless for several innings, in spite of available opportunities.
Let’s take a look at how it shook out.
The Rays kicked things off early with several opportunities in the first inning (and one unfortunate injury). Franco continued getting on base with a single, then on a Nelson Cruz deep double, Franco got to third, but looked to be in tremendous pain as he got to the base. He was quickly removed from the game with right hamstring tightness and replaced with Joey Wendle. Diaz drew a walk to load the bases. Unfortunately the next to at-bats were outs and the Rays failed to bring in a run. The Tigers were likewise unlucky in the bottom of the inning, going 1-2-3.
In the second, Alexander got into his groove and put the Rays down in order. Miguel Cabrera singled to start the bottom of the inning and continue his quest to 3000 hits. Unfortunately for the Tigers a flyout, a fielder’s choice out, and a groundout did them in.
Wendle, in his first at-bat of the game drew a one-out walk, then a Diaz single advanced Wendle to third, but the Rays were unable to bring him home. The Tigers were silent again in the bottom of the inning, going 1-2-3 once more.
The Rays did much the same in the top of fourth, and the Tigers managed only another Cabrera single, no runs scored.
In the fifth the Rays were finally able to put some numbers on the board. Kiermaier hit a triple to left, then a Wendle single brought him home to give the Rays the first scoring play of the game. Wendle then stole second, and Cruz drew a walk, but they came up short of scoring any additional runs. The Tigers quickly got their revenge in the bottom of the fifth and Eric Haase hit a solo home run. The rest of the batters went in order, but the game was tied 1-1. The fifth was also the end of the game for Wacha, who went 5.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR on 68 pitches. Not too shabby.
Luplow singled to lead off the sixth and stole second, but there was no luck breaking the tie. On the Tigers side of things, up against J.P. Feyereisen (and ultimately Adam Conley), Akil Baddoo tripled to get things started, then Grossman walked. Grossman then stole second, and Candelario hit a deep double to score Baddoo and Grossman and put the Tigers up 3-1.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Cruz singled, then Diaz drew a walk. Lowe walked next to load the bases. Then a pinch-hitting Ji-Man Choi was the hero of the inning, as he hit a long double, bringing home Cruz, Diaz, and Lowe and putting the Rays back on top.
Ji would ya look at that, another late-inning rally pic.twitter.com/KnOPBQKsUR— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 11, 2021
Pete Fairbanks was on for the Rays in the bottom of the seventh and gave up a ground-rule double to Niko Goodrum to start things off. Willi Castro singled, sending Goodrum to third. We then saw Fairbanks complain about the mound and got to watch the ground crew fiddle around with that for a bit. The Rays were then decidedly on the lucky side of a bad umpire call.
Harold Castro has to wait three minutes for pitcher-requested mound grooming in the middle of his at-bat, then gets rung up on this.— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) September 11, 2021
He wasn't happy, and with good reason. pic.twitter.com/LBGfNgOO0t
Baddoo drew a walk to load the bases with only one out, and that was it for Fairbanks. Kittredge was up next for the Rays bullpen, and on his first batter there was a claim of a hit batter, but there was no really definitive angle to prove Schoop was hit, so hit didn’t get the free run. Might have been better if he had walked him though because Schoop then hit a grand slam. Oops.
Kiermaier singled with one out in the top of the eighth, then Margot singled as well, but unfortunately the Rays couldn’t get any runs back. In the bottom of the inning with Armstrong on the mound, things just got worse for the Rays. Haase walked, then Goodrum walked, then Victor Reyes hit a three-run home run (I have seen Reyes play a fair bit, and I’m as surprised by this home run as anyone). Baddoo got a two-out single, then Schoop bunted, and a throw to first went well past Choi, letting Baddoo advance to third while Schoop was safely on first. Luckily a flyout ended the inning with no extra damage, but the Tigers were up 10-4.
Reliever Derek Holland made quick work of the Rays in the top of the ninth, and they would have to take the L on the series opener.
Final: Rays 4, Tigers 10