The following are the two stats that matter the most from the Tampa Bay Rays’ 11-3 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday: the team went 10 for 23 with runners in scoring position and left only 10 runners in base. For once, you can’t quibble about either of those–10 for 23 is a .435 average, and you’re always doing something right when you have more runs scored than men left on. Unfortunately, clutch hitting isn’t a clearly defined skill and the Rays may hit .100 with RISP for the next week despite this game. Even so, it was satisfying to see things going right for once.
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James Loney led the way for the Rays at the plate, going 4 for 5 with a walk, a double, and 3 RBI. He gave the Rays a 2-1 lead at one point with a fielder’s choice in the third inning and then added on some insurance runs later on. Loney is the one guy who seems to change his approach with runners in scoring position and hit even better than usual. At least in this game, though, he certainly wasn’t alone.
Evan Longoria went 2 for 5, drilling an RBI single to tie the game at 1 and putting the contest away with a two-run single to make it 6-1 in the sixth. Logan Forsythe stayed red hot by going 2 for 5 with a double and 2 runs scored and Kevin Kiermaier had his first big game in a while, going 2 for 4 with a double, a walk, an RBI, and 2 runs scored. Then there were the surprises: Bobby Wilson somehow went 2 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, and 3 runs scored while Nick Franklin went 2 for 5 with 2 runs scored in his first game with the Rays this season.
The turning point in the game was the sixth inning, which Twins manager Paul Molitor had seemingly planned out perfectly. He brought in left-hander Brian Duensing to turn around Asdrubal Cabrera and Franklin to the right side of the plate, the weaker side for both of them, and due up afterwards were Bobby Wilson and lefty hitter Kevin Kiermaier. The inning began as planned as Cabrera grounded out, but then Franklin drilled a double for his first hit of the season, Wilson walked, and Kiermaier drilled an RBI single. The floodgates opened from there.
On the mound, meanwhile, Chris Archer rolled, going 6 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 1. He threw only 87 pitches, but there was no reason for him to throw any more in a game that was 8-1 after 6 innings. Jake McGee followed with a perfect inning with 2 strikeouts in his first appearance of 2015 before Xavier Cedeno struck out 1 in his perfect eighth. Ernesto Frieri then finished the game, although he did allow the Twins to score two more runs.
The win gives the Tampa Bay Rays a 21-18 record and a better taste in their mouths as they leave Minnesota. They will be off tomorrow before beginning a quick two-game series with the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. Erasmo Ramirez will go against Mike Foltynewicz as the Rays will skip over Nate Karns this time through the rotation. The reason has nothing to do with injuries or poor performance–they simply want to give him a break in a year where he will be counted on to eat more innings than expected.