The Rays dropped the series-opener against the Houston Astros last night after back-to-back walks handed Houston the win. Drew Rasmussen takes the mound for the second game of the series against rookie starter Luis Garcia.
Wander Franco started things off with one out in the top of the first, hitting a double down the third base line and extending his on-base streak to a record-tying 43 games. He was stranded on third base after moving up on a wild pitch.
Not wasting any time tonight pic.twitter.com/0I1t7V6cyF— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 30, 2021
Rasmussen worked a 10-pitch first inning, setting the Astros down 1-2-3.
Brett Phillips was able to reach base in the top of the second on a two-out error in center field. It was a wild sequence of events that led to Phillips making his way to third base. Francisco Mejia brought him home with an RBI single to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead. Brandon Lowe took the very next pitch, sent it over the right field wall, and made it 3-0 Rays.
Rasmussen worked another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the second, striking out Yordan Alvarez in the process. He did it again in the bottom of the third, retiring the Astros his first time through the order without allowing a baserunner.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Astros once again went down 1-2-3. In the top of the fifth, the Rays extended their lead. Brandon Lowe hit a one-out double to right and moved up to third after Wander grounded out. Nelson Cruz drew a walk, and Ji-Man Choi stepped up, looking to bounce-back after a double play earlier in the game. Bounce back, he did.
Choi crushed a ball and sent it 420 feet to give the Rays a 6-0 lead.
Ji-Man can (and will) add three more pic.twitter.com/SdSWG0pt7S— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 30, 2021
The Astros found their first hit in the bottom of the fifth, but it was still another scoreless inning from Rasmussen, sending this game into the sixth. The offense was quiet in the top-half, and a pitching change was made for the Rays in the bottom-half.
Rasmussen was nearly perfect after five innings of work. He needed only 54 pitches to get through those innings, allowing one hit while striking out two. Luis Patiño relieved Rasmussen and worked around a one-out single to pitch a scoreless inning.
The Rays put two runners on in the top of the seventh, but weren’t able to extend the lead further. Patiño continued the trend that Rasmussen started, working a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the seventh.
Joey Wendle started the eighth with a leadoff double, and it looked like he was going to be stranded on base, but Brett Phillips drove him home with a two-out triple. Phillips tried scoring a run of his own, but was thrown out at the plate while laughing it off with the catcher Castro.
Ryan Sherriff was brought in to relieve Patiño after two strong innings of work, and despite allowing a single, Sherriff sent this game into the ninth with the shutout still in tact. The offense didn’t extend the lead in the top of the ninth, so it was up to Sherriff to close this one out.
Aledmys Diaz lined out on a great jumping catch by Wander for the first out. Michael Brantley struck out for the second out, but Alex Bregman reached base on a walk, the first walk allowed by Rays pitching in the entire game. Jake Meyers reached on a hit by pitch, and that marked the end of Sherriff’s appearance, with Louis Head entering the game.
Head worked around a full count to get the strikeout and end this game, securing home field advantage throughout the American League in the Postseason.
The Rays bounced back from a disappointing loss last night to even the series against the Astros. The final game of the series will take place tomorrow night, with Houston starter Lance McCullers taking the mound against a Rays starter TBD, first pitch scheduled for 7:10 pm.