Poor relief work can be the most frustrating thing in baseball. You can get a great start and solid run support, but then a reliever can come in, give up a homer, and cost you the game. Brad Boxberger allowed a two-run homer to Conor Gillaspie, and suddenly the Tampa Bay Rays were trailing 4-3 in the eighth inning. But here’s the thing–when one bad pitch is enough to beat you, usually it means that something else actually did go wrong. The Rays need to score more than three runs if they want to win. Luckily in this game, that’s exactly what they did.
Chris Archer returned to earth in his start for the Rays, but only in relative terms. He finished with 7+ innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 1. Considering that the third run came on Gillaspie’s blast after Archer allowed a walk to start the eighth and that his groundout to flyout ratio was a perfect 10-0, he delivered another terrific effort. Archer isn’t the Rays’ ace by necessity anymore–when Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly come back, best of luck to them as they try to overtake him. Archer always had the stuff to be this good, and now he is getting there.
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Archer’s one real regret came in the fourth inning. There were two outs and runners on the corners when he threw a first-pitch changeup to Melky Cabrera, who lined it into left field for a game-tying RBI single. As noted by Rays broadcaster Brian Anderson, Archer got too cute, going with his third pitch in a huge spot and paying for it. Archer was successful mixing in his changeup elsewhere in the game, forcing a whiff and two in-play outs among the seven times he threw it, but while it’s great to see him using it, he has do a better job deciding when that makes sense.
On the offensive side, the Rays tied the game at 1 in the bottom of the first on an Evan Longoria RBI single before Longoria made it 2-1 on a groundout in the third. After the White Sox tied it again, the Rays went ahead in the seventh when Alexei Ramirez couldn’t get a handle on Logan Forsythe‘s groundball in time to throw Nick Franklin out at home plate. Kiermaier tripled in the first and Franklin did the same in the seventh as they each set up a huge run.
After Boxberger’s struggles in the top of the eighth, the first two Tampa Bay Rays batters went down to begin the bottom of the frame. Zach Putnam‘s splitters were proving to be too much for the Rays to handle. However, David DeJesus got ahead in the count 2-1 against him before drilling a hard groundball off the mound and into centerfield for a single. DeJesus then stole second with Putnam not paying any attention to him, and after an excellent nine-pitch at-bat, Steven Souza Jr. got him in on an RBI single.
Souza then stole second base (with the help of replay review) before Asdrubal Cabrera was walked intentionally. New pitcher Jake Petricka then forced Jake Elmore to hit a groundball to Ramirez at shortstop, but his flip to second base was off-line–Cabrera would have been safe anyway–and Souza hustled to score when the ball came loose. The Rays took advantage of a pair of mistakes from Alexei Ramirez, but they forced the opposition to make plays by working great at-bats and making contact.
Jake McGee earned his second save in the ninth, working around a hit and a walk with 2 strikeouts, as the Rays won this game 5-4. The win takes them to 34-29 and just half a game back of the New York Yankees in the AL East. As of this writing, the Yankees are tied 2-2 with the Baltimore Orioles in the bottom of the third–if they lose, the Rays are tied for first. Tomorrow, Nate Karns will hope to hold his own against Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale beginning at 1:10 PM EST.