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We’ll take lucky hits any day: Rays 4, Red Sox 3

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This was a fun game, one that lacked the power hitting but had a little of everything else.

Even the first inning had its drama. There was the Tommy Pham stare down after he was caught looking. Then an Alex Verdugo solo homerun. Now I like guys who show some spirit when they hit a dinger, but a full-scale dance-o-rama, complete with (did my eyes deceive me) a crotch grab for a first inning regular season solo home run seems a little much! After a single, Story popped up to centerfield, and Jose Siri waved his arms in the universal sign for “I lost the ball in this damned roof”. I could feel my stomach drop, but then Siri caught the ball and grinned, and BA suggested it was an effort to perhaps fool the runner on first into trying to advance.

The Rays were facing Michael Wacha, who had pitched for them last year — first badly and then, after an IL stint, quite well. The Good Wacha has continued into this year, most notably in his ability to induce weak contact.

But even weak contact can score runs! The Rays got three first inning singles, and a run, and nothing was hit harder than 80 mph. Sometimes the BABIP gods have your back.

Patiño pitched a swift, clean second but then in the third inning, just lost the strike zone. He walked two batters, and eventually gave up a hit — a single to Devers, which scored a run, and then a Trevor Story double scored another run. One thing about Patiño is that when things fall apart they really fall apart — his delivery slows down, and mistakes seems to snowball (my colleague Darby Robinson says this reminds him of Chris Archer — indeed it does, but I do hope it’s something that Patiño will grow out of). Anyway, mid third inning the Rays were down 2 runs and Patiño was at 60 pitches.

It looked like the Rays had a chance to get at least something back in the bottom of the fourth inning. Bethancourt’s bloop along the right field foul line fell for a double, but then he got easily tagged out at third on a grounder to the pitcher. It seemed to me that he could have simply not run on that ball, so the Red Sox would have needed to get the out at first.

But the Rays did get a run back in the fifth. Jose Siri singled, and then scored on Arozarena’s long double off the left field wall. Red Sox left fielder Franchy Cordero hit the wall awkwardly in pursuit, and unfortunately needed to be taken off the field in a cart (and yes unfortunately, I don’t want to see anyone injured).

Patiño gave way to Jalen Beeks, who pitched a scoreless sixth, followed by newly re-called Calvin Faucher - who the Rays clearly believe will be an effective reliever for them. Nonetheless I prefer to see him and his 6 plus ERA in less competitive games. He walked the leadoff batter, then nearly got out of the inning with a double play, but Walls’ throw to first was way offline (he needed to leap over the sliding runner so not really his fault). The inning continued when Boegarts singled and Devers walked, so there we were with bases loaded. Sigh. I decided at this point I really needed to wash was dishes. When I came back Trevor Story was waving at strike three, inning over.

That set the Rays up to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. The inning started with Vidal Brujan pinch hitting for Chang, got hit by a pitch. He stole second, which was quite fortunate because it meant Siri’s grounder was not a double play, and moved Brujan to third. He scored easily when Manny Margot doubled, making it 3-3.

David Peralta’s double just past the diving first baseman scored Margot to put the Rays ahead.

And to make sure that the Red Sox didn’t get any funny ideas of retaking the lead, Colin Poche came in for the eighth and struck out the side. I repeat, Colin Poche struck out the side. My colleague Brian Menendez had noticed that Poche had been throwing a different, and better, breaking ball and it was clearly in evidence this inning.

After the Rays went quietly in the bottom of the eighth, they summoned Pete Fairbanks to close out the one run game. He uncharacteristically missed his spot to the first batter and gave up a single. With one out, Verdugo grounded to shortstop. Walls flipped the ball to Brujan for the force, but it was a hard ball to handle and Brujan, pushing for the double play threw erratically to first, missing Ramirez by a lot and allowing Verdugo to advance to second. Verdugo slid into the base spikes up, with those spikes driving into Brujan’s knee. Brujan then limped off the field. Frankly Brujan should have just held onto the ball, there was little chance for a double play.

But our Pete does not get rattled, so he calmly struck out Bogaerts, the last pitch a 99 mph fastball catching the lower edge of the zone. Game over.

Final thoughts:

  • We all want to see Luis Patiño put it all together, and I hope this is his road to getting there. Let’s remember that Shane McClanahan looked pretty rough in 2020. Let’s remember that Patiño, although he has been in the majors now several years, is 22 years old. TWENTY-TWO. I hope he can build on what worked well in those couple of fast, clean innings and take heart from the fact that his meltdown inning today resulted in giving up just two runs.
  • Who says baseball is not a contact sport? Poor Vidal Brujan got hit by a pitch and spiked on the leg.
  • The good news is the win. The bad news: