The Rays’ starting lineup was filled with six players who are expected to have regular playing time in the season, but magic from the bats of the players coming off teh bench delivered a late rally win against the Minnesota Twins 8-5.
Minnesota’s Liam Hendricks had a strong outing, striking out Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria in the first inning. Matt Moore did not have such a lucky start for the Rays, walking Joe Benson and giving up two runs on a Trevor Plouffe 2-run double later in the inning. The Rays’ offense supported Moore though, as Leslie Anderson stayed red-hot, drilling an RBI double, before scoring himself on a Jose Lobaton RBI single to tie the game at 2-2 after 2 innings of play.
Moore has struggled with his fastball this spring and wound up giving up two runs and two walks in his second outing of spring training. The lefty did record two strikeouts in the 2.2 innings he pitched. Despite the troubles with his command, Moore’s velocity was reaching 93-94 miles per hour on the radar gun, as opposed to the 91-93 miles per hour he pitched in his previous start, and with month remaining before the season, the Rays are sure that more progress from him is oncoming.
Starting in the fourth inning, Rays pitcher Roberto Hernandez delivered a solid performance by racking up three strikeouts in 2.2 innings without allowing a hit, although he did walk two batters. Hernandez was pulled from the game with 2 outs and a runner on in the sixth inning, but unfortunately things took a turn for the worst right then as Tampa Bay reliever Matt Buschmann gave up three runs in the inning, putting the Twins ahead 5-2. Buschmann, David Price‘s former Vanderbilt roommate, may have the potential to appear for the Rays later this season, but Tuesday’s game was a nightmare for him and he has plenty of work to do.
Up until that point, the Rays had struggled through a tough game and trailed 5-2. But in the final two innings, everything changed. In the 8th, the Rays came up with some late-inning magic, scoring 5 times on a Stephen RBI single, a Cole Figueroa RBI groundout, a Hak-Ju Lee RBI single, and then a Kevin Kiermaier 2-run triple. Brandon Guyer doubled and scored as part of the inning, but it was in the 9th that he would steal the show. The Rays were on track for a ho-hum inning in the top of the 9th with 2 outs and a runner on first after Guyer beat out the back end of what would have been an inning-ending double play. Figueroa followed with a single to move Guyer to third, and then somehow Guyer stole home with Lee at the plate, giving the Rays their final run and putting a punctuation mark on what turned out to be a great game as the Rays won 8-5.
Guyer went just 1 for 2, but he wound up as the player fans will remember most from this game as he went 1 for 2 and scored two runs with the second one coming, of course, on his steal of home. Guyer is coming off a season lost to shoulder surgery, but the Rays have always like his ability and if he keeps playing well, he could really make the team as a right-hand hitting outfielder. Vogt also impressed, going 2 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored, and Kiermaier and Lee were among the other impressive performers in the game with their clutch hits in the big 8th inning. Can’t go without mentioning Wil Myers as well, and he had a nsolid game in this one, going 1 for 2 with a walk.
The Rays came away with an exhilarating win after their offense rallied in the final two innings, but that would not have happened if not for their impressive showing they got from three pitchers in the final three innings: Josh Lueke, Mike Montgomery, and Juan Sandoval. Lueke worked around a hit to toss a scoreless 7th, Montgomery improved mightily upon a disastrous outing his last time out by working around a hit and a walk in his shutout frame, and then Sandoval closed out the game in style, showing a mid-90′s fastball on his way to a perfect inning with a strikeout. Lueke and Montgomery are coming off tough seasons while Sandoval has been forced to overcome so much after losing vision in his right eye, and it’s great to see all of them throwing the ball well.
Although fans and the Rays’ coaching staff hope to see more consistency from Matt Moore, who is entering his sophomore season and expected to play a big role in the Rays’ rotation, it is still early in the spring and the 23 year old has plenty of time to get himself together. His fastball command remains an issue, but it was great to see the velocity and hopefully the command will come along as the spring continues. On the positive side, the Rays’ offense has been strong this spring, with Tuesday’s game representing the third time the Rays have scored at least eight runs in their eleven games played so far, and several players, including Myers everywhere he goes and players like Guyer and Vogt in this game, really catching the eye of Joe Maddon. The Rays are off on Wednesday, but hopefully that allows them to recharge their batteries and keep their momentum alive. They will resume play against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday with Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, and Jake Odorizzi expected to pitch in that game.