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Rays 4 Marlins 0: No lemons in this Citrus Series opener

MLB: Miami Marlins at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After a difficult series in Baltimore, the Rays came home and remembered how to field and throw relief innings, and the result was a clean, quick 4-0 victory over the Marlins.

How to start a game, by Kevin Kiermaier:

  1. Lead off
  2. Swing at first pitch
  3. Hit a liner into short-ish center field
  4. Watch center fielder dive, miss, and let ball go to wall
  5. Turn on the burners
  6. Score

Kiermaier, seemingly revived as the new leadoff hitter, got the Rays off to a 1-0 start.

Harold Ramirez started the second with a variation on that theme: he waited for the second pitch and chose the more traditional home run approach of hitting the ball out of the park.

Despite these early inning fireworks, this unfolded as the pitchers duel between Pablo Lopez and Shane McClanahan that was promised. The Marlins got a few walks and hits but McClanahan seemed to come back with the strike out or double play ball to end the threat each time. One of the oddest plays came in the top of the sixth. With the Marlin’s Cooper on third, Zunino failed to block a pitch in the dirt, which hit the backstop before ricocheting back to the field. Zunino whiffed on it, McClanahan whiffed on it, but third baseman Paredes kept his wits and threw home to get Cooper as he tried to score.

This botched yet successful inning ending play preserved the shut out, and the following inning the Rays doubled their lead. Arozarena hit a deep double and Ji-Man Choi hit a monster homer for runs number three and four:

McClanahan left after six shut out innings, having given up four singles and two walks, and with nine strikeouts. It’s been remarkable to see him emerge as a reliably dominant ace this year. It’s hard to remember his last shaky outing.

Lopez was also very good. He fell victim to the long ball, uncharacteristically for him — although of course the home run that opened the game was hardly “long”. He got an astounding 21 whiffs en route to striking out eight in seven innings. This was indeed a matchup of two exciting young pitchers.

Rays relievers Dustin Knight and Ryan Thompson handled the last three innings to preserve the shut out, and the Rays came away with the 4-0 win.

As I scanned Twitter to find facts and clips for this recap I could not, of course, miss the increasing dire reports out of Uvalde, TX, where 19 people, including 18 second, third and fourth graders, were senselessly killed. At times like this we are reminded that a baseball game is not, ultimately, very significant but that at the same time a baseball game is a solace.