Imagine a world where the Tampa Bay Rays as we know them played offense and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as we knew them played defense. You almost don’t have to imagine that the way this team has been playing lately.
Today’s game against the Baltimore Orioles was no different, though, the outcome was more desirable as the Rays snapped a four-game losing streak where they only scored four total runs in the span.
Things did not start well for the Rays today as the Orioles struck first in the bottom of the second inning against Jeffrey Springs. Two runners were quickly on base after back-to-back singles from Tyler Nevin and Ryan Mckenna. That brought Robinson Chirinos to the plate and he got his first of what would be a three hit day with a two-run double that was misplayed by Randy Arozarena.
The defense was overall bad in this game but Yandy Diaz made an outstanding play to get the first out of the second inning on a Jorge Mateo groundball. The Rays got out of what could have been a devastating inning only trailing by two runs.
The Rays offense got things started in the top of the third inning. Francisco Mejia started his 4-for-4 day at the plate with a single to left field. Kevin Kiermaier followed with a single of his own as the Rays mirrored the Orioles previous inning. The mirror performance continues as Manuel Margot hit a two-run double to tie the game.
Yandy Diaz followed Margot’s RBI-double with a single as the Rays offense kept finding success on Orioles’ starter Kyle Bradish. A few batters later Harold Ramirez kept the party going later in the inning with a two-out double to right field scoring Diaz and Margot to give the Rays a 4-2 lead. Jeffrey Springs retired the Orioles in order in the bottom of the inning and this game was feeling like it would be the one to break the slump.
In the top of the fifth inning Diaz got his third straight hit of the day with a leadoff double. The Rays took full advantage of the runner in scoring position as Ji-Man Choi hit a two-run homer (EV 106.7, LA 24, 417 feet) over the center field wall extending the Rays lead to 6-2.
Our runs are scoring in pairs today, and these came with extra pop pic.twitter.com/O5PYZyN2Fp— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 18, 2022
Normally, a 6-2 lead over the Orioles would be enough to calmly enjoy the remainder of the game and await the victory. Unfortunately, this game remained too competitive for comfort as the Orioles kept fighting back.
Austin Hays led off the bottom of the fifth with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Ryan Mountcastle would score Hays two at-bats later with a RBI-single that sneaks past Diaz’ glove. That run ended Springs’ day and brought Matt Wisler to the mound. Springs finished with 4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB and 6 K on 88 pitches. Wisler didn’t fare much better as he gave up a bases loaded single to Chirinos that trimmed the Rays lead to 6-5.
Ryan Thompson was on the mound for the Rays in the sixth inning and retired the first two Orioles batters. He would have completed the 1-2-3 inning but a Taylor Walls fielding error allowed Trey Mancini to reach first base safely. Thompson then walked Mountcastle before Anthony Santander hit a ground ball past the shift to score Mancini and tie the game. The unearned run is the 44th for the season and ties the Chicago White Sox for the most this season.
Shawn Armstrong and Calvin Faucher pitched the seventh and eighth innings respectively and respectfully did their job to shut down the Orioles with two clean innings without a baserunner.
The Rays quickly loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning following a Diaz walk, Choi single, and Arozarena getting hit by pitch. Harold Ramirez came up next and came through big with a sacrifice fly to take back the lead 7-6.
Colin Poche kept the momentum of the previous two innings retiring the Orioles in order in the bottom of the ninth to seal the victory that almost slipped away.
This team isn’t playing pretty baseball but if the season ended today they would be in the postseason and ultimately that is what matters. Tomorrow, they try to win the series as Corey Kluber takes the mound for the Rays and Jordan Lyles for the Orioles. First pitch is at 1:35pm ET.