The Tampa Bay Rays' 25th anniversary season continued with all-time home game number 1,998 against the Milwaukee Brewers. They made the game something worth celebrating with an 8-4 victory.
The Brewers' offense got off to a rocky start. In the top of the first inning, Christian Yelich, Jesse Winker, and Willy Adames all struggled to find their rhythm and were retired in order in the first inning.
The Rays looked like they were off to a similar start, with Yandy Diaz and Wander Franco grounding out to start the inning. Then the Rays began flexing their muscle early with a solo homer from Harold Ramirez in the bottom of the first inning, which gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.
This is what a designated hitter doing his job looks like. pic.twitter.com/JoxbGcCOhU— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 20, 2023
The second inning was more of the same for the Brewers, with Rowdy Tellez, Brian Anderson, and Victor Caratini returning to the dugout without successfully getting on base.
In the bottom of the second, the Rays got baserunners with a Taylor Walls walk and Manuel Margot single. Diaz’ extended his hitting streak to 13-gams and further amplified the Rays lead to 4-0 by launching a three-run homer to center field. Diaz looked fully stretched out after sitting in the last four games with groin tightness.
The Return of the Yandy is an instant classic pic.twitter.com/9oIGxAKekc— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 20, 2023
The Brewers started to make a comeback in the third inning when Owen Miller scored a solo homer, marking their first run on the board. However, the effort was undercut when Turang was caught stealing second base after recording a single. Tyrone Taylor struck out, and Yelich grounded out, ending any hopes of a rally, leaving the score at 4-1.
The fourth inning saw another glimmer of hope for the Brewers as Brian Anderson hit a two-run homer trimming the Rays lead to a single run. However, the Rays countered with a leadoff homer from Christian Bethancourt. Taylor Walls followed with a double and scored on an RBI single from Manuel Margot which brought a quick end to Eric Lauer’s afternoon on the mound for the Brewers. Rays lead 6-3.
The Rays lineup is a power threat from top to bottom, but you definitely knew that already. pic.twitter.com/2EtjaFb4VM— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 20, 2023
From the fifth through the top of the seventh, both teams helped maintain the pace of play with a series of outs. The only baserunner came from a Bethancourt single in the bottom of the sixth.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, despite a pitching substitution bringing in Jake Cousins, the Brewers continued to fall behind. Diaz and Franco got things started with back-to-back singles. Luke Raley entered to pinch run for Diaz. A walk to Randy Arozarena loaded the bases. Paredes and Walls each managed to walk, scoring two more runs as Raley and Franco got the free pass home for the Rays extending their lead to 8-3.
Zach Eflin had a phenomenal start for his sixth win of the season. He pitched seven innings striking out eight batters with no walks. Back-to-back seven inning performances were not what I would have expected this weekend for the Rays but they are helpful to keep this bullpen rested, though, they ultimately would not get the rest they should have.
Ryan Thompson entered the game and got Owen Miller to groundout for the first out. Then Brice Turang hit a line drive double to left to start to make things interesting. A Taylor groundout felt like the Rays would escape unscathed, but Yelich hit a freaky infield pop-up that fell right in the middle of a scrum of Rays infielders with nobody calling for or successfully catching the ball. Turang scored and made it an 8-4 game. In the aftermath of that play, Jesse Winker was given a strike for a clock violation for not being set with eight seconds on the pitch clock despite Thompson being behind the mound with his hat off his head. Winker ultimately struck out and was ejected after talking to the umpire Adam Hamari to close out a weird few minutes of baseball.
Jesse Winker was given an automatic strike for not being in the batter's box even though Ryan Thompson was not on the mound— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) May 20, 2023
He struck out and was ejected after the at-bat pic.twitter.com/7pV2IDDRLo
Kevin Kelly entered the game to pitch the ninth and made a comfortable lead feel uncomfortably at-risk. After getting Adames to groundout, he walked Tellez and Anderson. The Rays quickly brought in Jason Adam to replace Kelly. Adam quickly retired Victor Caratini and Owen Miller to end the game.
Throughout the game, Tampa Bay pitchers Eflin and Thompson put on a commendable performance, regularly striking out Milwaukee batters. The Brewers saw mixed results with their pitchers Lauer, Wilson, Cousins, and Megill but couldn’t match the Rays’ solid defense and powerful hitting.
These teams close out the series tomorrow at 1:40pm as the Rays look for the series sweep.