The Tampa Bay Rays had yet another rough night at the ballpark, suffering their seventh consecutive loss in a 6-1 defeat against the Atlanta Braves. Struggles to capitalize on early scoring opportunities and shaky pitching performances marked another disappointing night for Rays fans.
The Rays had a solid chance to score early in the game. The bottom of the first inning saw Yandy Diaz lead off with a single, Wander Franco reaching on a fielder’s choice, and Luke Raley adding a double to put runners in scoring position. However, the threat was neutralized when Braves’ starter Spencer Strider struck out Randy Arozarena and Brandon Lowe, leaving two runners stranded.
Pitching was a mixed bag for the Rays. Starter Taj Bradley kept the Braves in check, retiring the first nine batters in order.
Then in the fourth inning, fortune favored the Braves. Ronald Acuna Jr.’s leadoff double, followed by an Ozzie Albies walk and RBI single from Matt Olson, put the Braves on the scoreboard. Things turned disastrous in the next at-bat as a three-run home run by Sean Murphy saw the Braves jumping to a 4-0 lead.
Bradley’s day ended after five innings, allowing four runs on five hits while striking out four and walking two.
Javy Guerra recalled from Triple-A Durham before the game, replaced Bradley in the top of the sixth. He looked shaky at first, walking Murphy, including a ball that slipped and went behind the batter but ultimately delivered a solid performance. Guerra managed to keep the Braves scoreless through two innings, but the Rays couldn’t capitalize on his efforts.
Braves pitcher Spencer Strider put up a dominant performance, striking out 11 over 6.1 scoreless innings. Strider kept the Rays off-balance throughout his start, never allowing the Rays to gather momentum.
Strikeout No. 1️⃣0️⃣ for Spencer Strider tonight— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) July 9, 2023
: FOX pic.twitter.com/1WxY9gEGuT
The Rays’ missed opportunities continued into the sixth inning. Yandy Diaz leadoff single and a two-out walk from Arozarena put runners on first and second. However, the Rays were again left empty-handed as Lowe struck out to end the inning.
The Rays finally got on the board in the eighth, thanks to a throwing error by Braves’ first baseman Matt Olson that allowed Wander Franco to score, making it a 4-1 game. However, any hopes of a late comeback were dashed in the top of the ninth when the Braves scored two more runs off Jake Diekman, extending their lead to 6-1.
The Rays could not generate any offense in the bottom of the ninth, sealing the defeat.
There were glimpses of quality play, but the inability to capitalize on critical opportunities and going 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position proved costly.
It is still way too early to hit the panic button. The Rays still have the best record in the American League and have one more game before some much-needed rest during the All-Star break.
The Rays have one last opportunity to end this losing streak before the break tomorrow as these teams close the series out, with Zach Eflin starting for the Rays and Bryce Elder getting the start for the Braves.