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Spring Game 15: Steven Souza’s Blast Leads Rays To Win

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People are concerned–and rightfully so–about how the 2015 season will begin for the Tampa Bay Rays, but spring training opponents continue to bend to their will. Steven Souza drilled a go-ahead two-run home run as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 4-2 and improved to 7-1 in their last eight games.

Nate Karns started for the Rays and looked decent, going 4.1 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He retired the first five batters in the game to give him a streak of 22 opposing hitters sent down in a row, but a two-out single by Jose Martinez wound up starting a rally for Minnesota. Eric Fryer‘s two-run double gave the Twins a 2-0 lead.

The Rays got a run back in the bottom of the second inning, though, scoring on singles from Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe followed by an RBI groundout from Steven Souza. Karns, meanwhile, got into major trouble in the fourth, allowing two singles and a walk to give the Twins the bases loaded with nobody out. But Karns got a popout and a double play groundball to escape the jam, and he was rewarded in the bottom of the frame.

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Karns was not at his sharpest, but it was great to see him battling through adversity to give the Rays a solid outing. He is being put into a tough spot, with his place in the Rays’ rotation having as much to do with the injuries of others as his own performance. If he struggles to begin the year, he could easily be sent down to Triple-A. However, the Rays see a pitcher with the talent to help them stay afloat at the beginning of the season if he can prevent his mistakes from being too costly. He certainly did that in this game.

In that bottom of the fourth inning, it was Steven Souza who came up big again, drilling a two-run home run to give the Rays a 3-2 lead. Souza is off to a slow start this spring, hitting just .154, but he has a pair of home runs and has consistently delivered great at-bats. This game is just another reminder we now have no need to worry about him. The Rays were excited to acquire Souza, and their enthusiasm about him hasn’t dimmed a bit.

Curt Casali‘s sac fly in the sixth inning gave the Rays a 4-2 lead, and Kirby Yates, Kevin Jepsen, Brad Boxberger, and Jordan Norberto tossed scoreless relief behind Karns to keep the score right there. The Rays are now 8-6-1 this spring, and they will take on the Toronto Blue Jays at 1:05 PM tomorrow. There will be a free broadcast of the game on RaysBaseball.com.

Next: Veteran Rotation Options for Rays: Scott Baker

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