You can always tell these Mariners games are gonna be the most abjectly weird experience you will ever watch all season almost immediately. Today’s rubber match certainly lived up to that.
The Rays excellent bullpen and 2-out RBIs from Brett Phillips were enough to finally get the Rays a series win vs the Mariners. It was close, tense, often weird, but ultimately a rewarding series win for the Rays to secure their 11th win of 2022.
Weird, Whacky, and Lucky
The 1st inning wasted no time maxing out the dial on the frustrometer 3000 this afternoon.
Top half of the 1st inning: 76.0 MPH EV bloop triple for Suarez to drive in first run. Margot caught in between wanting to drive and wanting to pull up. Ended up doing neither and letting the Trop turf play a tune.
Bottom half of the 1st inning: Wander was able to scorch a liner that went directly into a glove for a double play in the bottom half of the inning.
Perhaps after growing far too fat and happy on constantly feasting on Rays, the BABIP Luck Dragon decided to sample a different type of seafood. After Julio Rodriguez was able to win the footrace vs Springs to 1st base, Kelenic scorched a liner directly into the shift to get the double play.
In the 2nd, we something you almost never see: Josh Lowe did a straight sac bunt directly to a drawn in Abraham Toro at 3B. I suspect this was a JLowe call and not a Kevin Cash call. Mainly because, it was the 2nd inning, and it was after a leadoff walk. Odd time to try and play small ball for 1. Also, I can barely remember any times when Kevin Cash called for sac bunts. It’s the first sacrifice bunt of the season for the Rays and ideally not a new strategy shift.
Let’s remember the past and the Greatest Generation: Don’t bunt, hit dingers
"At Your Job Today... Don't Bunt When the U.S. Needs Home Runs." Created by the War Production Board during World War II, c. 1942-1943. From U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Unknown artist. pic.twitter.com/nquWhfon3d— SABRIconography (@SABRIconography) April 26, 2022
Something you never see part 2: back-to-back catcher’s interference calls! Rene Pinto got the start with Mike Zunino still resting from his biceps injury. In the 3rd he ran into a little trouble with catching the ball in front of the batter, rather than the more acceptable behind the batter. France and WInker both got on after making contact with Pinto’s glove. Thankfully no damage resulted from it.
The 6th inning had all sorts of weirdness. First, there was this Umpire mess:
This is a truly mind-boggling umpjob— Welcome to the Ump Show (@umpjob) April 28, 2022
Two different umpires make two separate wrong calls, on the same pitch. The home plate ump calls a ball a strike, and the first base ump calls a swing a checked swing. pic.twitter.com/0SF6O0kMNO
The pitch was a ball called a strike, the first base umpire called it no swing, Julio definitely swung, and the right call was made for all the wrong reasons.
Then in the bottom half of the 6th, Franco hit a grounder for a not easy but not too difficult play to Abraham Toro at 3rd base. After Toro somewhat bounced the ball, Ty France bobbled the catch and popped it into the air. However, Franco put on the airbrakes and France had plenty of time to catch his own pop-up and toe-tap 1st.
Immediately after, Yandy Diaz hit a grounder up the middle and was able to beat out the play at 1st thanks to another misplay by France. Obviously, with how off the Rays offense had been all day at the plate vs Flexen, it would have been nice to have 2 on and 1 out with a chance to finally break through. However, Topper had some quick reporting to explain why Wander pulled up:
#Rays Franco pulled up, as he'd been told by coaches due to previously tight quad, on infield grounders, but might have been safe there had he turned it back on.— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) April 28, 2022
It’s a very long season, and Wander is integral for the Rays to succeed. It may not help the team win today, but keeping him healthy long-term is much more important and if that’s what the Rays staff are preaching, I’m not gonna argue.
The Horses were out of The Stable
Jeffrey Springs started the game and performed remarkably well. His only real blemish was that aforementioned bloop triple. He had the Mariners off balance, the change-up was dancing (recording 4 of his 6 whiffs), and most shockingly went his longest appearance as a member of the Rays with 43 pitches completing 2.2 IP. His day ended after a clear catcher interference call got Ty France to 1st.
Jalen Beeks took over to begin the 5th. A single a comebaker, a replay review to overturn a double play, a single, and a walk later and suddenly the bases were loaded for the M’s with just 1 out. Eugenio Suarez came up after, he of the gifted 3 bases and an RBI in the 1st, looking to do more damage. Well the BABIP Luck Dragon decided to take back what was once given, and despite hitting it much harder and much better than in the 1st, this time Suarez contact found Taylor Walls glove at 3rd to begin the around the horn inning-ending double play and escape the jam unscathed.
After Beeks, JP Feyereisen and his excellent mustache came in and took the M’s for a ride over two perfect innings. After Rasmussen’s stellar start in game 2 of the series, the other half of the Willy Adames trade also came up huge again. Feyereisen is quietly putting together a dominant start to his 2022 season:
Don’t look now, but JP Feyereisen is seemingly back to his normal self with spin and movement (not quite as good at its peak last year, but still filthy)— Darby Robinson (@darby_robinson) April 24, 2022
7.1 IP 0.00 ERA/0.63 FIP, 37.5% K/0% BB pic.twitter.com/NkUMEmbWJz
Tack on 2 more IP, 2 more Ks, and 4 more Whiffs for JP Feyereisen today.
Often, for some reason (that reason is ignorance) people have this habit of assuming that when facing the Rays Bullpen Day that’s something you “have to take advantage” of. Like that’s a weaker game primed for the taking. The Rays bullpen might not be filled with household names, but the performances have been excellent, the stuff is very good, and it’s managed to perfection. A day when opposing batters only get to see a really talented pitcher once, and then have to face a new also super talented pitcher again for the first time all over, and repeat that for 27 outs, it’s no pleasant day at the park.
Today, and frankly all series vs Seattle, the Rays bullpen were unreal. Altogether the “relievers” for the Rays racked up a series line of: 19 IP, 15 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 17K
Duel Threat Hero
With the way Chris Flexen was dealing today, the Rays bats were not getting a lot of opportunities to score. Brett Phillips early on brought the score even with a very important early 2-out RBI single to tie the game in the 2nd at 1-1 and quickly erase that early deficit.
Between Flexen and the Rays’ Stable, runs were at a premium today. The middle innings came and went with little major drama (besides the aforementioned weird and whacky above).
In the bottom of the 7th, the Rays finally were able to put some good at-bats together and give Chris Flexen some hard work. Harold Ramírez started it off with an extremely Harold Ramírez smashed ground ball single. Josh Lowe added a soft single opposite way, setting up Taylor Walls to try and keep the rally going. Walls was able to push the count to 3-1, but got overeager and swung at a perfectly placed low and away ball to roll over for a double play. It fell onto Brett Phillips, once again, to try and come through with 2 outs. And once again, Brett Phillips delivered. This time, the BABIP Luck Dragon reared its head again, helping Phillips ball up the middle to ricochet off of Flexen’s leg away from the shift, giving the Rays the narrow 2-1 lead.
Brett tied the game in the 2nd and now he unties it in the 7th pic.twitter.com/uVFm4Map0L— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 28, 2022
After old friend Diego Castillo was unable to find the strikezone in the 8th, the Rays threatened to add on more. Unfortunately, Randy Arozarena’s PH attempt ended up a big swing and miss to allow the Mariners to wriggle off the hook.
You thought you were done with the weird!
The table was set: 9th inning, 2-1 game, and Colin Poche in to try and preserve the narrow lead and win a series vs Seattle. JP Crawford continues his red hot start to the year, lacing a hard single to lead off. However, Poche locked in and induced two pop-ups in a row. The first was routine for out number one. The 2nd, well, less so. After Brandon Lowe drifted to shallow RF to follow the popper, Crawford saw him settling under and made the turn back to 1st. The ball glanced off Lowe’s glove, and Crawford had to do an aboutface to 2nd. Brett Phillips had shifted to RF for the 9th (KK coming in to CF) and thankfully that pitching arm of his was warmed up. Phillips fired a strike to 2nd to get the force out for out number 2.
Poche would be lifted with right handed hitter Tom Murphy pinch hit. Ryan Thompson got the call to try and get the last out, secure the save, and give the Rays a series win. First thing in though, Julio Rodríguez stole another bag. Julio’s strikezone has been brutally unfair so far, and the bat hasn’t warmed up yet, but my goodness can he fly. Now with the tying run in scoring position, and a fairly tricky Tom Murphy at the plate, Thompson needed to be extra sharp. He was sharp:
Those Sliders he swept in there inside or low and in were filthier than this graph shows. There’s nothing good that Murphy could have done with those pitches. And despite having one of those two perfect Sliders bottom in called a ball (on 1-2 when the entire stadium and both teams thought the game was over) Thompson reared back and swept one more in to get the backwards K, Save, and a Rays series win.