For just the 28th time in modern baseball, two rookie starting pitchers faced off against each other in a MLB game. And not for nothing, but they both had a pretty rough time of it.
Tommy Romero, called up from Triple-A after Luis Patino hit the 10-day IL, was known in the minors for how few walks he gave up. Unfortunately, tonight the walks would haunt. The first inning started with a walk to Kemp, then a walk to Andrus, and a Lowrie home run made the game 3-0 very, very early. Another walk to Brown put Romero at 3 BB in just the first inning, but thankfully the A’s were unable to score any additional runs.
Tampa Bay took their revenge in the bottom of the inning with a leadoff home run from Brandon Lowe, a walk to Ji-Man Choi, and a double off the bat of Randy Arozarena, and a Margot walk to load things up. Unfortunately, Lowe’s home run would be the only scoring run for the Rays that inning, leaving them trailing by two.
In the top of the second Neuse walked, then Kemp got a single. Props to Romero, however, because he was able to catch Kemp with too much of a lead from first and executed a perfect pick-off. Another walk to Andrus was the end of the day for Romero, who finished with 1.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 1 K, 1 HR on 59 pitches (only 31 of which were strikes). Call it a rough first outing, but certainly not what anyone was expecting from the strike-generating Romero.
Heading to the bottom of the second already over an hour into the game, and Mike Zunino was ready to surprise and delight with a perfectly lined double, which soon ended with him on third base after a pickoff error from A’s rookie pitcher Adam Oller. A beautiful hit single to right field off the bat of Taylor Walls brought Zunino home and inched the score that much closer. A rare Franco strikeout gave way to Choi who destroyed a three-run home run blast giving the Rays the lead 5-3 and chasing Oller from the game. And oh my goodness the home run dance between Phillips and Choi was pure happiness. I love this team.
JI-MAN CHOI!— Bally Sports Sun: Rays (@BallyRays) April 12, 2022
Choi sends a 3-run bomb and the @RaysBaseball tak a 2-run lead! #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/yCoR46cnvY
Arozarena hit what should have been an easy out at first, but an error from Andrus meant Randy ended up at second with only one out. Alas, no additional runs scored, but the Rays came out of it on top.
The top of the third was blessedly speedy with a 1-2-3 for reliever Springs. And then Brett Phillips kicked off the bottom of the third with a solo home run while adorable first-pitch-thrower Chloe Grimes was talking about Phillips being her favorite player. Chloe evidently gave Brett a bracelet for good luck before the game, and he better wear it for the rest of the season. (FYI if you want to support Chloe who is going through her second battle with cancer, you can find her GoFundMe here.)
Raley was the man on the mound for the Rays in the fourth, and allowed only a single to Piscotty. The Rays had a solid bottom of the fourth, but no runs to show for it. Choi got a double, Josh Lowe drew a walk, and it seemed likely the Rays might make something happen, but a Margot line out ended the inning.
Raley put the A’s down in order to start the fifth. In the bottom of the inning Phillips got aboard on a walk, but got a bit too aggressive on a Brandon Lowe single pushing for third and got tagged out to end the inning.
In the sixth, things got a bit uglier. Wisler was the man on the mound and issued a leadoff walk to Brown. A wild pitch from Wisler allowed Brown to advance to second and then a shallow single from Piscotty allowed Brown to make an aggressive push for home and Zunino wasn’t able to get ahold of the ball, allowing what might have otherwise been a tagout to be a scoring run. The A’s got one back, but the Rays still maintained the lead at the end of the inning.
Wander Franco absolutely destroyed a triple to start the seventh, and it looked like the A’s might challenge but then they thought “nah, better not.” Choi then got a single, but it wasn’t quite enough to give Wander a pass to home with the ball going right to Andrus. Andrus overthought things and got no one out. Arozarena was able to score on an error from Kemp who lost his grip on the ball for what probably should have been a double play, but instead scored Franco. Randy was erased on a fielder’s choice that advanced Choi to third and put Margot on first. A Phillips pop-up ended the inning by the Rays were up 7-4.
Ralph Garza Jr. was the next reliever in, pitching his first game of the year for the Rays after just being called up today. It, uh... didn’t go great. With two outs to start the inning, Lowrie walked. Then Murphy walked (is this sounding familiar to the first?). Brown singled to score Lowrie, then a Pinder double over Margot’s head scored Murphy and Brown. Heh. Murphy Brown. Anyway, by the end of the inning the score was tied 7-7.
In the bottom of the seventh Walls got a nice one-hop double to deep center with one out. Franco drew a two-out walk to leave it up to Yandy Diaz. Unfortunately, no dice, and things were left tied headed to the eighth.
Things started with a leadoff hit by pitch of Neuse. Not totally sure what happened there, but Neuse left the game after the HBP. Kemp hit a long, long fly, but it was ultimately a flyout. A double play ended the inning without any damage. Except maybe to Neuse. The bottom of the inning the Rays went 1-2-3, tied into the ninth.
A Brown single was the only baserunner in play for the A’s in the top of the ninth and no additional runs scored. With two out in the bottom of the ninth Walls walked, but the Rays were unable to get the walk-off, and things went to the tenth.
With Pinder as the free runner on second, an infield single from McKinney scored Pinder, but McKinney was out stretching the single to a double. Still, the go-ahead run scored for the A’s, reminding me why the ghost runner is stupid.
Nevermind, I take it back, the ghost runner RULES. In the bottom of the tenth Franco tied things up with a double to score runner Brandon Lowe, and then with two outs, and the game re-tied, Margot hit an RBI single to score Franco and the Rays walked it off.
Final: Rays 9, A’s 8