Tonight the Rays took on the defending world champion Houston Astros — presumably a “real” team by anyone’s standards. And they did it all — good pitching, great defense, timely hitting.
The only downside was the end of the “homer a day” streak.
I guess we have to settle for a mere 14 hits, five walks and eight runs.
Taj Bradley has looked great in his first two major league starts, but few young starters are going to get through their first month in the bigs without facing a bit of adversity. That came quickly in tonight’s game, as he gave up two early runs, one in the form of a Bregman solo home run. Astros 2, Rays coming up to bat.
But these Rays don’t just cower when faced with a deficit. In their half of the first, Wander Franco singled and stole second. Arozarena hit a deep liner to left field, and Astros left fielder Julks made the poor decision to try to dive after it. Well he missed and that not only allowed Wander to score but also allowed Randy to hustle to third. He was called out but that call was overturned on review; credit Randy with some kind of magic on a slide that just evaded the tag while stretching to the base.
Hittin’ Harold followed with a double which scored Arozarena and tied the game at 2-2.
In the top of the third, Jeremy Pena opened the inning with a solo home run to give the Astros the lead. Bradley was falling behind hitters and generally struggling with location. He was able to get Bregman after a long at bat when Christian Bethancourt nabbed a foul pop up as he fell into the Rays dugout. Astros 3, Rays 2.
The Astros lead was short-lived. Yandy Diaz opened the third with a single hit right back up the middle at 110mph, I admire Houston pitcher Urquidy for not simple fainting as that thing blazed past him.
Franco followed with a double; Randy hit one opposite field to the wall, where it was caught — but it also drove in Yandy to tie the game up again. The Rays managed to load the bases with two outs, which brought up Josh Lowe.
Lowe had not looked great in his first at bat and fell behind two strikes in this one. But he kept fouling off pitches until he got one he could hit, and grounded it deep enough to short that he could beat it out for an RBI single.
What an AB and hustle by Josh Lowe to first.— Tricia Whitaker (@TriciaWhitaker) April 24, 2023
Drives in Wander Franco for the go ahead run. 4-3 Rays. pic.twitter.com/4LAaOzu5YY
And that’s not all! Bethancourt was also down 0-2, indeed he looked stupid on some of those swings, but then he hit a soft one that dropped into shallow center for two more RBI’s. That ended Urquidy’s night in just the third inning, with the Rays up 6-3.
Meanwhile to his credit, Bradley found his stride, and had clean fourth and fifth innings, with the help of yet another great catch in foul territory, this time by Franco who somehow ended up way in the left field foul area.
The Rays got their seventh run in the sixth inning. Randy Arozarena doubled and moved to third on a passed ball. Isaac Paredes singled him home, and an eighth run in the seventh. With Kelly taking two innings, Cleavinger and Beeks an inning a piece the bullpen pitched four scoreless innings for an 8-3 final score.
You could tell that Urquidy, a righty, had some reverse splits from his career stats, but also from the comparative struggles of the left handed Lowes against him in contrast to the success of right-handed batters - although of course Wander, batting lefty, did just fine. Poor Brandon Lowe had a night to forget. Striking out four times is the Golden Sombrero, but what do you call a five strikeout night?
In contrast, some other Rays hitters were on fire, with Wander in the lead with four hits; Diaz, Arozarena Paredes and Bethancourt each with two.
Big credit to Taj Bradley, who battled in the first two innings and then settled down to get through five with just four hits, three runs and - impressive for a pitcher whose command seemed off at the start, no walks.