Once the season starts, Rays fans know that while the bats will have their moments, the Rays’ pitching staff will always reign supreme. In spring training, though, it could be an entirely different story as the offense exploded for 10 runs, including 3 runs in the 10th inning to seal the win, as the Rays defeated the Twins 10-7, improving to 2-1 in Grapefruit League play.
Chris Archer got the start for the Rays and looked really good, touching 97 MPH with his fastball although his changeup with his primary focus, and he tossed a hitless inning with one strikeout working around a walk. Jake Odorizzi followed him with a scoreless frame of his own, allowing only a walk. Beyond those two, the Rays didn’t send any MLB pitchers or top prospects to the mound, although Juan Sandoval, a name we’ve heard about a lot lately because of his perseverance overcoming blindness in his right eye to continue his career, made an appearance, allowing a run in an inning of work. The trio of Alexander Torres, Matt Nevarez, and Kirby Yate also impressed, each tossing a scoreless inning where they worked around a hit while striking out one. But that’s the last we’ll talk about pitching for a while.
The Rays took the early lead in the second inning on a Mike Fontenot RBI double, but it was in the 6th inning when the offense really hit its stride. The Rays began the inning down 2-1, but with 1 out and a runner on, Wil Myers drilled an opposite-field double, his first hit in a Rays uniform. It was exactly the type of bullet line drive Myers is capable of hitting on a regular basis, and it should be the first of many. But before the Rays got all sentimental, they got around to scoring a trio of runs, including 2 on RBI singles by Jason Bourgeois and Fontenot. Then the Rays apparently iced the game in the 9th, taking a 7-2 lead when Leslie Anderson followed up his big homer on Saturday with a 2-run single and Myers contributed a sac fly. But after lefty Jimmy Patterson had a disastrous outing, allowing 5 runs in just 0.2 innings pitched, the Rays offense had to go back to work in extra innings and they were more than up to the task.
There were 2 outs with Shawn O’Malley on first following a 1-out single in the 10th inning when the hot-hitting Leslie Anderson came up to the plate, unfortunately without a runnre in scoring position. However, O’Malley made something happen, stealing second base, and then Anderson came through in the clutch once again, delivering an RBI single to give the Rays an 8-7 lead. But there was still more as catcher Mark Thomas followed with a 2-run home run to make it a 10-7 game. Thomas is a catcher best known for his defensive prowess, but he had a huge second half at the plate at Double-A and if his strong offense keeps up, he could be the Rays’ catcher of the future. Even if this homer is only the start of a ridiculous spring, he’s a major longshot to make the Rays’ roster out of spring training, needing a full year at Triple-A, but the Rays had to be excited seeing him pick up right where he left off to begin 2013. Before we talk more about the bats, we have to give credit to Thomas, batterymate to end the game, Jim Paduch, he retired all four batters he faced to earn the win in the game.
The Rays had an incredible offensive day, managing 10 runs on 15 hits, managing just four hits for extra bases and only going 5 for 16 with runners in scoring position, but they used an outstanding running game to key their offense, stealing 5 out of 5 bases, two by O’Malley and one each by Bouregois, Hak-Ju Lee, and Ty Morrison. Anderson, Stephen Vogt, and Mike Fontenot all had multi-hit games for the Rays and Myers went 1 for 3 with his first hit as a Ray, but you gotta love what Thomas did as well, going 1 for 3 with his 10th inning homer and also picking a runner off of first base. It was an outstanding all-around effort by the Rays offense, and while Patterson and the pitching had a rough day, the bats were able to pick them up to come away with the win. Even in spring training, coming up huge in the 10th inning to nail down a win has to leave you smiling.