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Burch Smith Solid But Rays Fall in Spring Games 6 and 7

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It was a split-squad day for the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday as they took on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Port Charlotte and the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers. Both games ended in defeat–4-3 and 5-1 respectively–to drop the Rays to 1-5-1 this spring training.

Against the Pirates, Burch Smith looked good, tossing 3 innings allowing 1 run on 3 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. The one run came after Andrew Lambo doubled on a groundball off the first base bag, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a Sean Rodriguez groundout. He also allowed a pair of hits in the third inning, but escaped with the help of a double play.

Smith touched as high as 93 MPH with his fastball and even showed some cutter-like movement on it at times. Throwing such a hard cutter doesn’t always work as expected–see Brandon Gomes–but it was nice to see Smith adding something to his usual fastball-changeup arsenal. He is still looking for a third pitch, and the cutter could potentially be that if he takes some velocity off of it.

The Rays found themselves down 3-0 after a mediocre outing from Everett Teaford, but the battled back in the sixth and seventh innings. A two-out double by John Jaso and an RBI single by Desmond Jennings made it 3-1, and the score stayed right there after the following half-inning thanks to great defense. On Mel Rojas‘ flyball, Mikie Mahtook made the catch in centerfield and fired a rocket to Luke Maile, who tagged Alen Hanson out at home.

The Rays then tied the game at 3 after Evan Longoria walked, James Loney doubled, and both David DeJesus and Maile delivered RBI singles. It is great to see everyone hitting, but Maile has been great lately. He doubled against the Yankees on Monday and then contributed both offensively and defensively today. He did make an error on a stolen base attempt in the eighth inning, though, just before the winning run scored for the Pirates (although it likely would have scored anyway).

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In other news from the first game, Loney went 2 for 3 with a run scored overall, Jhan Marinez tossed 2 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 2, and Grayson Garvin showed some good breaking balls in his scoreless ninth inning. The Rays showed a lot of positive signs, specifically from Burch Smith and the offense, but it was frustrating that they lost their fourth 1-run game of the spring in five tries. Then again, it’s only spring training and better to go through the stretch of bad luck now.

In the game against the Red Sox, Matt Andriese worked around a baserunner each in the first two innings, but he had worse luck in the third. With two outs and a runner on third, Nick Franklin‘s fielding error scored a run, leading to Andriese’s departure. Mike Montgomery then allowed an inherited runner to score on Hanley Ramirez‘s RBI double.

Andriese went 2.2 innings allowing 2 runs, none earned, on 2 hits, striking out none while walking 1. He forced 5 groundouts versus 2 flyouts. Montgomery, meanwhile, rebounded from his rough beginning to go 2.1 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1. He got help from yet another Kevin Kiermaier outfield assist and helped himself out when he struck out Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia to escape a bases-loaded jam in the fourth inning.

The Rays finally scored in the eighth inning when Logan Forsythe tripled and scored on a passed ball. The Rays managed just two other hits on the day, a Kiermaier double and a Joey Butler single. The Rays had as many errors as hits as Nick Franklin made two misplays and Hak-Ju Leewho replaced him at shortstop–made another. All three errors were fielding and Franklin wasn’t worried.

Tomorrow, the Rays will take on the Minnesota Twins at 1:05 PM in Fort Myers. There will be no TV or radio coverage, but we’ll give you the full update within a couple hours of the game’s conclusion. Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.

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