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Rays 2 Angels 1: Bullpen shines in much too close victory

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Tampa Bay Rays Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

I kept waiting for the Rays to break this game open. That did not happen. Thank goodness Randy Arozarena is on one of those “some guy named Randy” tears.

Both teams had opportunities in the first inning. Springs gave up a seeing eye single, but managed to strike out Mike Trout, and retire the side by nabbing a line drive hit right back to him.

Then in the bottom of the inning, Randy hit a soft grounder toward third, it was clear that he would be safe at first, but Angels third baseman Luis Rengifo still tried to get him at first and instead threw the ball away, with Arozarena ending up at second base. Paredes walked, and then Ramirez grounded out between second and third. Arozarena took off from second to third just as Renifgo charged in (although he wasn’t the one who fielded the ball, where were you going Luis?), and the two collided. The upshot: Arozarena was out (really not much he could have done to avoid this), Renifgo was shaken up, and Ramirez was safe. Chang then struck out to end the inning. Some very bad luck for the Rays, since Randy’s “interference” was not his fault at all.

And in some ways the first inning set up a pattern that prevailed most of the game — both teams had baserunners, primarily via walks or singles, but weren’t very successful at getting them home.

The Rays had chances every inning, but couldn’t capitalize until the fourth. Back to banck singles by Yu Chang and Harold Ramirez seemed to presage a productive inning, but alas a double play put a damper on the budding rally. Fortunately David Peralta’s 2 out single scored Ramirez from third for a 1-0 lead.

But nothing beats good luck, right? Springs had been pitching well all night, only one ball in play was over 100mph. But in the top of the fifth inning he yielded an infield hit and a weak single to put runners at the corners with Mike Trout of all people coming up. I’m sure many of us were picturing the three run bomb, but no, he hits a 74 mph duck snort to short left field and the run scored, tying the game.

Arozarena, who has become rather toasty, was apparently tired of all this weak tea, small ball nonsense so the bottom half of the inning he sent one into the right field bleachers to put the Rays back in the lead.

And that, friends, was all the scoring tonight.

Springs had pitched a very clean, if a little unlucky game (six mostly weak singles) but faltered a bit in the sixth, when he walked two batters. His final line was one run, three walks and seven strikeouts, with the walks probably the only downside of his evening. He was pulled for Jalen Beeks, who had to face Ohtani as a pinch hitter. How did we end up here, I wondered? But Beeks did a great job striking out Ohtani — he threw four changeups in a row, 3 were strikes and got the out. The pitch that was not a strike bounced in the dirt, credit to Mejia for blocking that pitch and preventing the runners from advancing.

Jason Adam got the eighth inning and although he did give up a walk he continued his amazing 2022 performance, hitting 98mph (did we know he could do that?) to strike out the last batter of the inning. And Shawn Armstong closed out the game with an efficient 1-2 3 ninth.

In addition to stellar bullpen work, hat tip to Taylor Walls; whatever defensive yips he was having early in the season are gone. The third inning was the Taylor Walls moment — he fielded all three grounders for outs, two requiring outstanding plays.

I’ll admit it, this game seemed slow to me. A three hour game with just three runs? Nine walks will, of course, slow any game down.

That the game remained so close meant we did not get an appearance by Kevin Herget, who was called up for the first time after ten minor league seasons. I assume the Rays figured they’d use him in any lopsided game, but when was the last time the Rays had one of those? They either win by one or lose by one. I’m sorry he didn’t get to make his debut (presumably he’ll be the odd man out when the Rays activate JT Chargois) but I hope he at least enjoyed the sweet major league per diem.

This win puts the Rays 11 games above .500, and currently in possession of the top Wild Card spot.