Tampa Bay Rays Game 35: Deja Vu Night in St. Pete
By Robbie Knopf
The New York Yankees and the rest of the baseball world celebrated Yogi Berra‘s birthday on Tuesday, and we all love his various “yogisms.” Among the most famous is “It’s deja vu all over again.” As it turned out, Wednesday night’s game was extremely reminiscent of that game on Yogi’s birthday. Once again, the Yankees got off to a great start in the first inning, but the Tampa Bay Rays’ pitching staff came together from there and the offense got enough runs to lead the team to its second straight win.
It was five straight batters reaching base against Chris Archer on Tuesday–this time it was nine straight balls to start the game from Nate Karns. He allowed walks to Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and after he came back to get Alex Rodriguez, RBI singles by Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann made it 2-0 Yankees. However, Karns then struck out Carlos Beltran and forced Stephen Drew to fly out, and before we knew it, the tide of the game had turned again.
Steven Souza Jr. immediately put the Rays within 2-1 in the bottom of the frame with a long homer, and then they took the lead in the second inning. After Logan Forsythe‘s leadoff double, Asdrubal Cabrera made his 1000th hit an RBI double before Joey Butler gave the Rays the lead on a go-ahead single. Karns, like Archer, had worked around a pair of hits in the second inning, but by his next time on the hill, he had been staked to a lead that he never relinquished.
Karns had a streak of 10 Yankees batters retired out of 11 before New York got something together with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. At that time, Teixeira and McCann delivered back-to-back infield singles before Carlos Beltran singled to center. Even though they had been conservative in Tuesday’s game–for instance, when they held Alex Rodriguez at third base on a medium-depth flyball in the first inning–the Yankees decided to be aggressive and send Teixeira on Beltran’s hit. Unsurprisingly, Kevin Kiermaier delivered a great throw home to keep the Rays in front.
Karns finished with 5 innings allowing 2 runs on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. He threw 92 pitches, a lot for five innings but few enough that he could have started the sixth. However, due up for the Yankees were four lefty hitters out of the next five, and the Rays took advantage by bringing in Xavier Cedeno. Cedeno allowed a single to the lone righty batter, Jose Pirela, but he retired the other four as he gave the Rays 1.1 strong innings. Brandon Gomes followed and recorded a pair of strikeouts after allowing a single to Rodriguez.
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The Rays were unable to give their pitching staff any more runs, but Cedeno and Gomes handed the ball off to Kevin Jepsen with the lead and that turned out to be enough. Jepsen worked around a Chase Headley single to deliver another scoreless frame before Brad Boxberger worked a dominant ninth inning for his 10th save. He finished the game in impressive fashion as he struck out Gardner and Rodriguez. Jepsen was struggling recently while Boxberger had some issues earlier in the year, but on the whole, they have been exactly the dominant late-inning duo that the Rays needed.
The Rays managed just 7 hits to the Yankees’ 10, but they went a solid 2 for 5 with runners in scoring position and let their pitching (and Kiermaier) do the rest. Joey Butler had the lone multi-hit game as he went 2 for 3 while Cabrera went 1 for 2 with a walk, an RBI, and a run scored. Cabrera is now 7 for his last 20 (.350) as he is slowly beginning to hit his stride. He got off to a rough start, but the Rays are still hoping for a solid season from the man who began the season as the number three hitter in their lineup.
The win takes the Tampa Bay Rays to 19-16, just two games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. They have a chance to reduce that margin to just one game as Erasmo Ramirez opposes Chase Whitley in the finale of the four-game set on Thursday night at 7:10 PM EST.
Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Preston Guilmet, Another Ray With a Splitter