Tonight’s game featured fifteen runs, 23 hits and six walks, so if you like your baseball with a lot of men on base — and don’t mind a three and half hour running time — this was your night.
The Rays hitters got a quick second look at Brayan Bello, the very promising rookie pitcher who made a somewhat shaky debut start against them just last week. He started the game by hitting Yandy Diaz with a change-up and then walking Choi. Jonathan Aranda singled, followed by a 2-run single by “OMG he’s heating up” Josh Lowe, giving the Rays a quick 2-0 lead.
But the Rays gave some of that back with bad luck and bad play. Bogaerts doubled, and went to third on what was called a wild pitch but good lord Mejia block the darned ball. Verdugo then hit a high chopper up the first base line that neither Fleming not Choi seemed ready to field. It was hit slowly enough that it would surely have scored the run but better fielding would have at least yielded an out.
The game really seemed to be unravelling when Trevor Story hit one deep into the left center field gap, but somehow Brett Phillips appeared out of nowhere and dove to just grab the ball before it hit the turf. Wow. They say defense never slumps. If you missed it live you’ll want to check out this clip:
The Rays then somehow tacked on three more runs in the second, all with two outs. It started when Luke Raley led off the inning with a walk. That was followed by two quick outs, and probably we were all thinking, “oh well, nothing happening this inning.” But Yandy Diaz doubled over the third base line, scoring Raley. Diaz scored when Choi singled in the next at bat, He in turn scored when Aranda singled, his second hit of the game (I just want to note that he is at this moment hitting .667). At the end of two innings, the Rays had a 5-1 lead.
Sadly, Fleming could simply not shut the door to preserve that lead. He walked the leadoff hitter, and two batters later JD Martinez doubled in two runs. Yes, this umpire had a tight strike zone, but the answer is not throwing over the heart of the plate! But Fleming did manage to end the inning with a strikeout of Trevor Story, who chased a low change-up on a 3-2 count. The Red Sox managed to get another run in the fourth however, making the score 5-4.
At least Fleming didn’t give up the lead. No, that was because he was gone after pitching three long innings. Instead, it was Luke Bard who pitched the fifth and it seemed could not get anyone out. The Red Sox rally started with a well hit JD Martinez ball that Josh Lowe arguably should have caught. He scored to tie the game on a Bogaerts single, which was followed by yet another single by Alex Verdugo. OK, I was thinking, maybe we get a double play ball to end this misery? But no, a double steal moves the runners to second and third with just one out. At that point the infield was drawn in, and when Trevor Story grounded to third, Yandy glared at the runner while throwing for the out at first (yeah, I wouldn’t run with Yandy glaring at me, either).
Fortunately, the Rays got to the Boston bullpen in the sixth inning. Taylor Walls was hit on the foot by a pitch, and Yandy Diaz followed with a long double into left center field. Who is this pull hitter? Walls scored - credit to him since that foot must have been stinging. Pinch hitter Harold Ramirez then drove in Yandy with a single. Rays Up 7-5.
Yandy stays hot and Harold helps him home pic.twitter.com/LfEcp373dM— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) July 12, 2022
Can the bullpen please hold it there? Nine more outs to go.
Luke Bard came out again for the seventh, and I wondered whether Cash was getting greedy — but Bard pitched a one-two-three inning.
Six more outs to go.
Colin Poche pitched a clean eighth.
Rays got some nice insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. The Rays got a baserunner thanks to an error by left fielder Bobby Dalbec, who simply misread and then dropped the ball. A Brett Phillips single (yeah Brett!) moved the runner to third, where Yandy Diaz knocked him in with a sac fly. Harold Ramirez knocked Phillips in with an RBI single. And that’s not all! Newcomer Yu Chang’s single scored Ramirez to make the score 10 - 5.
Jason Adam, who had been warming from earlier in the eighth with a slimmer lead, came on to pitch the ninth. He went 3-0 on the first batter but came back to strike him out, and then strike out the next two batters.
Some final thoughts:
- A game with fifteen runs and no homers? Even with 2022 baseballs that has to be unusual.
- Home plate umpire Nate Tomlinson must really like walks! Because his strike zone was very stingy. It was stingy on both sides, although Fleming seemed most bothered by it. But this certainly added to the length of the game.
- Yandy Diaz has been the Rays best and most consistent hitter of late. And tonight he seems to have forgotten that he’s an up-the-middle/other way hitter because his three hits were all on the pull side.
- Is there any Rays fan who is not rooting hard for Phillips to find a bit more success at the plate? Of course the team needs him not to be a black hole in the lineup because Kiermaier is out indefinitely. But we all want the nicest guy in baseball to do well.
- From the department of “you never have too much pitching,” Fleming apparently was pulled after three innings due to oblique tightness. Not what we want to hear!