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Spring Game 9: Souza Jr. Starts Rally As Rays Win 10-3

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The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Blues Jays 10-3 on Thursday afternoon thanks to an eight-run outburst in the fifth inning. Alex Cobb started the game and struggled a bit, but thanks to Steven Souza and company, the bats finally came alive.

The Blue Jays got the scoring started when Devon Travis singled a run home in the top of the second inning. They would add two more runs in the third when Josh Donaldson singled in a pair of runs to end Alex Cobb’s day down 3-0. However, the Rays responded in the fifth frame against Marco Estrada in a bigger way than anyone could have imagined.

The rally started when Steven Souza drilled a home run to left field. Rene Rivera then followed it up with a double to left then was singled home by Tim Beckham. Nick Franklin followed with an RBI single of his own on a slow dribbler to third before a double from Alexi Casilla drove in two more runs to make it a 5-3 ballgame.

Allan Dykstra kept the torrid stretch going with a double off the right field wall to score Casilla. Then Logan Forsythe punctuated the inning with a homer to left to put the Rays up 8-3. The Rays had just a little more scoring in them after that as Nick Franklin’s single to right was misplayed to scored two more runs in the eighth inning.

Alex Cobb started out the day with a sharp first inning, but he struggled after that, allowing one run in the second inning and two more in the third. He was lifted after 2.1 innings pitched having allowed 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. Cobb allowed all five of his hits on belt-high fastballs that I’m sure he’d love to have back. As is often the case in spring training, his stuff looked good and the velocity was there, but his command was just a bit off.

C.J. Riefenhauser came on after Cobb and was pretty solid. He threw 1.1 innings and struck out two hitters on nasty slider. Brandon Gomes came on next and threw 1.1 innings as well, striking out two hitters. Gomes velocity was around 91-92 and his command was pretty sharp other than for a few pitches. Both Riefenhauser and Gomes are vying for the remaining spots in the Rays’ bullpen.

Ernesto Frieri had another sharp outing, throwing a pretty good frame. His fastball was hovering around 93 MPH, but he appeared to be putting an emphasis on throwing his changeup. After throwing one that missed badly to the first hitter he faced, he followed it up with several good ones including inducing a nice swinging strike three.

Then Kevin Jepsen had perhaps the best performance of all Rays’ pitchers on the day. His fastball was sharp at 95-96 MPH and his sharp breaking slider was particularly nasty, inducing some ugly swinging strikes. He would strike out two hitters, and while he did he walk one, he looked to be in almost midseason form.

Jordan Norberto seemed to be getting some velocity back after Tommy John Surgery, touching 94 MPH a few times on the radar gun. He also seemed to hit his spots better than before in his scoreless inning. Finally, Kirby Yates closed the game out with an uneventful ninth inning in a good way, retiring all three hitters he saw.

The Rays’ offensive breakthrough was exciting as Desmond Jennings, Corey Brown, Nick Franklin, and Allan Dykstra all had multi-hit games. Steven Souza’s homer was also quite impressive as it came on a first-pitch breaking ball that he launched after it failed to break. Congratulations to Souza on his first homer in a Rays uniform. Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin O’Conner were among the others who delivered base hits.

In the field, Desmond Jennings made a nice diving grab in left field and further showed off his range there. Expect to see more of that with Jennings slated to play mostly in left this season. Mikie Mahtook also made a nice grab in center field on line drive while Cabrera helped turn a 4-6-3 double play early in the game.

The Rays play the Philadelphia Phillies tomorrow in Clearwater at 1:05 PM EST. The Rays will not have a broadcast, but MLB.TV subscribers and fans in the Philadelphia area will be able to watch the Phillies’ broadcast.

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