The biggest question about the Tampa Bay Rays heading into the season had to do with their offense. Would they be able to score enough runs to give their dominant pitching staff the lead? Despite squandering several opportunities, the Rays cashed in enough chances to take the second game of their three game set against the Cleveland Indians by a score of 6-0.
Indians starter Trevor Bauer, called up for this one start, was wild from the beginning, walking the bases loaded without recording an out. The Rays plated a run when Evan Longoria walked, forcing in Desmond Jennings. After a pop foul for the first out, Yunel Escobar hit a line drive to right. Matthew Joyce attempted to score, but was gunned down at the plate by an excellent throw from Ryan Raburn to end the threat.
Cleveland threatened in the top of the third, putting runners on first and second with no one out. Michael Bourn attempted to move the runners over, but Longoria fielded the bunt and fired to second to force the runner, as Escobar alerted covered the base. After Alex Cobb escaped the threat, it was the Rays turn to look to score. Following a leadoff walk, Jennings stole second and third. Joyce hit a high chopper to third, and Jennings broke for home. Although he slammed into Lou Marson, he held onto the ball and tagged Jennings out. Jennings has been getting on base since Spring Training, and has carried that into the season. When he does, the Rays offense seems to have a different feel then it typically does. Bauer would walk the bases loaded again, but escaped when he struck out Escobar to end the inning.
Despite having seven baserunners at that point, the Rays got their first hit in the fourth, when Jose Molina singled to left. Kelly Johnson followed with a two run home run to expand the lead to 3-0. Bauer exited after five innings, allowing three runs on two hits, but walked seven batters and only had two strikeouts. Matt Albers entered the game in the sixth, and was greeted by what appeared to be a single off the bat of Yunel Escobar. However, Escobar was hustling on the play, and was safe at second on a controversial call when it was determined that Jason Kipnis missed the tag. That call paid immediate dividends for the Rays, as Shelley Duncan drove Escobar in with a base hit.
Meanwhile, Cobb was cruising along, shutting down the Indians offense. In his 7.1 innings of work, he allowed four hits and three walks, striking out six in his 103 pitch outing. With this outing, each member of the Rays rotation went at least six innings in their first start, which is an excellent sign. the Rays had been preaching a ‘pitch to contact’ mentality this spring, and, for the first time through the rotation at least, it appears to have taken hold.
The Rays tacked another couple of runs on the board in the bottom of the eighth. With runners on first and third and two outs, James Loney hit a double into the gap, plating both runners and putting the Rays ahead 6-0. Joel Peralta and Cesar Ramos combined with Cobb to shut out the Indians for the second straight night.
Every Rays starter got on base against Cleveland pitching. Loney was 2-4 with a double, two RBIs and a walk. Jennings was 1-3, but walked twice, stole two bases, and scored a run.