Watching this game, I feel as though I’ve experienced both the highest and lowest points of the Rays young season. The Rays staged a comeback to beat the Red Sox 9-3, extending their season opening win streak to 13 games, which ties the Braves and Brewers for the longest win streak to open a season.
But let’s get the bad out of the way.
If you are a baseball fan, you will understand that feeling, the worst feeling in the world. Your pitcher – your best pitcher, because it’s always your best pitcher – throws the ball and then grimaces. Or he grabs his elbow. Or he shakes his head.
The trainer runs out. The manager runs out. They confer. They point. Maybe your guy tries to throw again, or maybe it’s clear to him that he won’t be throwing again for a while.
In 2021 it was Tyler Glasnow.
And today it was Jeffrey Springs. The pitcher who had somehow mastered all his tools. Whose change up is the nastiest pitch around. Who had given up 1 run in 13 innings this season, and just one hit in this game. Who threw a fastball, looked at his arm, bringing out his manager and the trainer.
We have since heard that Springs has “left arm ulner neuritis” which our official DRaysBay doctor says is sort of like carpal tunnel in your elbow. Not great but probably not something requiring surgery and perhaps something not even requiring a full 60 day IL stint?
Meanwhile, back to the game: we knew that not every game would end in victory, that not every pitching performance would be stellar, that the Rays would not pummel every pitcher. This game was, in its early innings, indeed a rude return to reality.
The game started with a first inning solo home run by Rob Refsndyer – the first home run he has hit all year, and the first run Springs has given up all year. But the Rays hitters knew that this version of the team doesn’t like to be in deficit, so Yandy Diaz responded by hitting the first pitch he saw out of the park.
The Red Sox, however, took quick advantage of Springs’ departure, loading the bases against Clevinger, who had relieved Springs with one out in the fourth. Justin Turner doubled, and Clevinger walked the next two batters. Cash evidently did think he’d get out of this jam, so he brought in Kevin Kelly. Kelly got the next two outs, but a run did score on a grounder, giving Boston a 2-1 lead.
Things got even worse for the Rays in the fifth inning. The Boston rally started when Arroyo’s pop up – seriously, a POP UP, fell between Josh Lowe, Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco. It looked like Franco had a good beat on but just stopped, perhaps Lowe called him off? Or did he just assume it was the centerfielder’s ball? While the Rays are lucky to have a few guys able to play center, a few plays today reminded us how much better it is when you have a plus-plus defender “quarterbacking” the outfield. At any rate, Arroyo came around to score to give Boston a lead of 3-1.
Corey Kluber, whose shaky first start had led to talk that perhaps his career was nearing its finish, has rediscovered whatever magic he has that convinces big league hitters to swing unproductively at 86mph cutters. The Rays hitters just couldn’t figure him out, even disciplined hitters like Wander Franco were off kilter.
That changed in the fifth. Harold Ramirez doubled, and Josh Lowe walked. Mejia came up, got down 2 strikes, and then lunged after a low pitch that any reasonable hitter would take. Mejia is not that reasonable hitter, he went for it and he made contact, for an RBI single. If I were his hitting coach I wouldn’t know whether to scold him or hug him.
Diaz then sliced a liner into the right field corner; Verdugo made a sliding catch, and Cora decided to go to his bullpen to get the last out of the inning.
Brandon Lowe, who had looked lost against Kluber, and Randy Arozarena both hit RBI singles, and the Rays had a 4 to 3 lead. Wander Franco was hit by a pitch (right on the funny bone, please Boston we know you are frustrated but don’t hit our guys!) to load the bases, and then Manuel Margot on the very first pitch put down a perfect two out bunt for another RBI. I know we’re supposed to love the dingers, but I love this play:
Harold Ramizez, up for the second time that inning, laced a bases clearing double. At the end of the inning, the Rays were up 8-3.
We got to meet the Rays newest pitcher, Braden Bristo, in the seventh inning. Bristo was making his major league debut in this, his seventh professional season. He walked the first batter faced but got three outs, and went on to pitch two more innings.
Starting the Rays half of the seventh, Brandon Lowe had evidently decided that too many innings had passed since his last home run onto the concourse, so he did this:
Brandon Lowe has homered 5 times in his last 6 games!!! pic.twitter.com/jRXcRO2gbR— MLB (@MLB) April 13, 2023
That made the score 9-3.
While the offensive fireworks will get most of the credit for this win, I’d also call out the performances of Kevin Kelly and Braden Bristo, who combined for 5.2 innings, giving up one run and one walk while striking out six. Great job of providing high quality innings to spare the rest of the pen, and a very impressive debut for Bristo. I hope in their postgame clubhouse celebration he’s getting his accolades.
To cap off the exciting win, the Rays had just over 21,000 in attendance, pretty remarkable for a weekday afternoon game. While these games always draw a number of Red Sox fans, my impression from the crowd sounds and camera shots was that this was a Rays-fan heavy crowd.