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Zack Littell is officially the fifth starter - Rays 8, Astros 2

Rays take the series as Erasmo Ramirez (!) returns to the Rays

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in two weeks, dating back to the Royals double header, the Rays have scored six or more runs and this baseball team started feeling like their usual self.

Zack Littell, who is officially being stretched to be the Rays fifth starter (unless something changes at the trade deadline in the next two days), made his longest appearance of the year in his second true start, going five innings with four strikeouts over 82 pitches.

And it was a solid outing. Kevin Cash had enough faith in Littell to wait until 75 pitches to have Erasmo Ramirez begin warming up for the Rays for the first time since 2017 (!). And it wasn’t until then that the Astros picked up their first run.

Littell gave up hits in each of the first three innings but kept Houston out of the run column. He had four strikeouts and zero walks through the first three frames. He put his four-pitch mix to good use, getting eight whiffs.

And yes he was relieved by THAT Erasmo Ramirez! Who was part of the original Cash managed Rays team and has since played for five other clubs! If you missed it, the Rays stashed him in Triple-A mid-season after his release from the Nationals, and he’s back essentially after the DFA of Yonny Chirinos. Ramirez pitched 3.0 innings with 2 K’s and 2 hits allowed.

But it wasn’t just pitching highlights today, the Rays were back on offense as well, and we’re not just talking about the 4-0 first frame.

Yandy Diaz, who has been nursing a groin injury and visually has seemed to be playing at 70%, had an encouraging day, most notably chasing down an errant throw to first base to get Jose Altuve trying to steal second, picking up his first hit of the series, advancing well on the basepaths, and gloving the ball on a stellar jump throw from Wander Franco to limit the Astros to 1 earned run against Littell.

Brandon Lowe was back as well, in that Dawg was seeing the ball very well today. Most of all, he benefitted the most when the Astros attempted two pitchouts in a row with Wander on first. With a 2-0 count, Lowe had the best pitch to hit you’ll see all season and hit a no-doubter.

Dare I say, a healthy Brandon Lowe could be one of the best deadline pickups the Rays could ask for…

And finally, Wander Franco (as hinted at above) went — ugh, can’t believe I’m writing this as a positive — went full Derek Jeter with this throw:

Whatever. We’re back!

So where did the rest of that offense first come from?

Bielak’s first inning was all over the place, as he quickly walked Yandy Diaz and Wander Franco. Brandon Lowe then ripped a single to load the bases with no outs. Paredes popped out and then with one out, Luke Raley hit a groundball too hard to handle for Jose Abrea at first, and Diaz scored to give the Rays the lead. Harold Ramirez also popped out, leaving the bases loaded. In stepped Josh Lowe, who ripped a two-out, three-run double at 111 mph to right field, giving the Rays a healthy 4-0 lead in the top of the first.

The Rays continued to grow their lead in the fourth after Josh Lowe reached on an error and Jose Siri singled to give the Rays two men on and no outs. Rene Pinto reached on a fielder's choice, and then Yandy Diaz singled on a hard-hit ground ball that bounced off the glove of Alex Bregman and shot into left field, scoring Siri. Brandon Lowe singled home Pinto to make it 6-0 before later hitting a homerun for the seventh and eighth runs of the game.

Game Notes

  • The Rays optioned Calvin Faucher to AAA Durham and selected the contract of old friend “Everyday” Erasmo Ramirez, who made his 125th career appearance for the Rays.
  • Randy Arozarena had a scheduled day off.