I did not have Jeffrey Springs down as the Rays 2022 stopper. But he and four relievers combined to shut out the Twins and avoid a series sweep.
The Rays got their first run without much in the way of hitting. Twins starter Sands’ control went a bit awry in the third inning, and Brett Phillips drew a leadoff walk. Phillips moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a ground out. With two outs, Choi hit a weak, protecting the plate grounder that somehow got twisted up in Sands’ legs. Phillips scored easily as Choi was credited with an RBI infield single.
The next burst of Rays offense was largely thanks to a very determined Randy Arozarena, who was less than thrilled to be hit by a pitch for the second time in the fourth inning. As Brian Anderson noted, Sands was strategically pitching Randy up and in, and with his control a little off he ended up hitting him in two at-bats. Randy got his revenge with a quick steal of second. He got further revenge when a grounder was hit directly back to Sands, who spun to try to catch Arozarena taking off from second. Instead Sands threw the ball into centerfield, and the Rays had runners on the corners with no outs.
Arozarena got the ultimate revenge then, scoring on a groundout into the drawn in infield. He somehow managed to slide around the tag while sticking a foot out to sweep across the plate while sliding onto the other knee.
My entire leg hurt just watching that slide. I’ve watched the replay several times and still don’t know how he did it. (Kiermaier tried to replicate Randy’s success on the next play but he was tagged out). The upshot, however, was a 2-0 lead without getting the ball out of the infield. They scored their third run when Vidal Brujan managed an actual, into the outfield, 100.5 EV hit, but the inning ended when Mejia was tagged out trying to take an extra base.
The Randy Revenge tour continued in the fifth inning. Margot opened the inning with a double, and Arozarena doubled him home, following with a steal of third. Did he need to get angry to become more successful in baserunning? He scored then on a Kiermaier bloop to extend the Rays lead to 5-0 and end Cole Sands’ outing.
Springs made it into the sixth inning, at which point he had thrown a career high 94 pitches and seemed to be showing signs of fatigue (with deeper counts and his second walk of the game). He left with one out and a man on first, having pitched 5.1 innings of 2 (weak) hit ball. Wisler came in and did manage to retire the side, but I swear his two-thirds of an inning seemed to take longer than the previous 5 innings combined.
Kevin Kiermaier added a further insurance run in the 8th with a well struck homerun. He also committed a “what just happened” error in the bottom of that inning when he dropped a relatively routine fly ball. In an earlier inning the Rays broadcast team showed how good Kiermaier was, with runners on base, at catching the ball positioned so that he could throw to a base and make sure the runner did not advance. In this case, with Correa on first base, it seemed like KK was getting ready to catch the ball anticipating a throw in to second. But perhaps he was too focused on making that throw rather than first insuring he had secured the catch. At any rate, with a double play ending the inning this error did not affect the game’s outcome.
After seeing the Rays outplayed on Friday and Saturday it’s good to have a win where all facets of the game seemed to be working. The team gets a day off tomorrow before facing the Yankees on Tuesday night.