If ever there should have been a series for the Rays to capitalize against another team to bolster their chances at locking down a wildcard spot, this would be that series. The Tigers have not been good this season, and that is putting it mildly. With Detroit fans rallying for the firing of the team GM, and almost no major moves made at the deadline, the Tigers were poised to be swept this weekend.
Yet, things really didn’t go the Rays’ way in this second game of the series. Corey Kluber, who has a strong record against the Tigers, did well, but had a bumpy start that gave the Tigers their early lead. The bigger problem was the Rays’ inability to take advantage of early problems from Tigers’ starter Bryan Garcia.
The first inning was the Rays first LOBster situation of the evening. Lowe got a leadoff walk, putting an early spotlight on Garcia’s obvious struggles with finding the zone. A Choi double play eliminated the first baserunner, but soon enough Diaz was aboard. Still, the Rays could not capitalize on the opportunity and no runs scored. In the bottom of the first, Kluber showed a little bit of fizzle himself, giving up a hit right away, as Greene singled. Greene was soon eliminated by a Reyes fielder’s choice, followed by a Baez single. Then Candelario hit a single to bring Reyes home and give the Tigers the lead, 1-0.
In the second, the Rays absolutely had opportunity to tied things up and get the go-ahead, but they just couldn’t make it happen. Garcia couldn’t find the strike zone if someone gift-wrapped it and put it in his hands. Arozarena reached on a one-out single, but got a bit eager and was caught stealing second. With two outs, Garcia walked Mejia, Quinn, and Walls all in order. With the bases loaded and Brandon Lowe with a full count, Lowe struck out, leaving the three men aboard and the Rays scoreless.
The bottom of the second saw the Rays chipping away at Kluber, as Baddoo hit a two-out single, followed by a Greene home run. Reyes then hit a double that dropped into center and made Roman look a little uncomfortable as he tried to get the catch and just couldn’t do it. The Tigers didn’t get more than the two runs, but it was enough to put them up 3-0.
It was a three-up-three-down third for both sides, as each pitcher breathed a sigh of relief for a relatively easy inning.
The fourth saw little in terms of Rays offense, as they had to settle for only a Mejia walk. With Garcia done for the night, he provided six walks that the Rays were unable to convert into runs. There would be more. In the bottom of the fourth, Kluber had gotten into his groove and put the Tigers down 1-2-3.
The top of the fifth offered a bit of a reprieve for the Rays: there wouldn’t be a shutout. Walls got a leadoff walk against reliever Will Vest, and he then advanced to second on a Lowe groundout. Choi walked. Then a Peralta double brought Walls home and put the Rays on the board at last. Raley got a walk in the inning as well, but no additional runs scored. Onto the bottom of the fifth and Kluber once again went through the batters 1-2-3.
Things started to look up a bit in the sixth as Tigers pitchers decided to give up singles instead of walks. After a quick out, Quinn, Walls, and Lowe (he had to be so happy to finally get a hit) got singles, and the Lowe single scored Quinn. They’d have to settle for one, though, as the next two batters were out. The bottom of the inning saw Kluber staying strong, with only a single to Castro, and no runs scored. At the end of six it was a one-run game. That was the end of the night for Corey, whose final line was 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HR on 84 pitches.
Onto the seventh and the Rays saw two quick outs before getting their tenth walk of the night in Randy Arozarena. Unfortunately, much like most of the other walks of the evening, the Rays were unable to convert it into anything meaningful. In the bottom of the inning it was over to Beeks, who gave up a leadoff single to Barnhart. It was the Tigers’ turn to get a walk next, as Greene took a one-out stroll to first. A Reyes double play ended the inning safely for the Rays, however.
As the game headed into the eighth, the song and dance felt familiar as the Rays got their eleventh walk of the night in a leadoff walk for Quinn. This time around, though, the Rays weren’t going to squander their luck, Walls walked, then a Lowe double scored the two baserunners. A single from Paredes scored Lowe, and suddenly the Rays had the lead. Two outs followed, before another walk to Raley. The top of the inning ended with an Arozarena strikeout, but the Rays now had the lead, 5-3. In the bottom of the eighth the Tigers went 1-2-3.
The Rays went down in order themselves in the top of the ninth. As the game headed into the bottom of the ninth, the Rays turned it over to Poche to protect the lead and keep them on track to win the game. Poche gave up a one-out walk to Cameron. One more out, and it was down to the final batter. Walls was unable to get the ball to first as Haase singled. The next batter was Riley Greene who homered earlier in the game, but Poche punched him out to end the game.
Final: Rays 5, Tigers 3