Steven Souza Jr. was back where it all began. He stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the second inning against Jordan Zimmermann, the pitcher who in equal parts was helped by Souza to enter history and gave Souza the chance to engrain himself into the city of Washington’s collective memory. After receiving a nice hand from the crowd, Souza broke up Zimmermann’s no-hitter with a single into left field.
In the bottom of the frame, Souza performed another “opposite feat,” making an excellent catch on a long run and a slide in right field after his famous grab to finish Zimmermann’s no-no had been in left. The ultimate reversal had yet to come as in his second at-bat in the fifth inning, Souza drilled a solo home run to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 1-0 lead. And for good measure after Zimmermann had left the game, he added a bunt single in the ninth and scored on the same play thanks to a pair of errors.
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We have seen flashes of the player that Steven Souza Jr. can be. His power is incredible, and he can do so much more. His 8 stolen bases lead the team, and he has also shown the ability to bunt. However, we keep waiting for his defense to come around and meet the precedent set for it by the catch in the Zimmermann game. We keep waiting for the strikeouts to stop and his average to get into reasonable territory. Souza’s talent is so clear, especially on the day that Wil Myers went down for another eight weeks with wrist surgery. There is no better place than Nationals Park, though, to discuss just how much better he has the chance to be.
Reliever Steve Geltz started the game for the Tampa Bay Rays with the idea being that he would toss 2 shutout innings and then make way for a pinch-hitter in the top of the third inning. That part of the plan worked out very well–he retired all six batters he faced before being lifted for Brandon Guyer with a runner on first base in the third. Of course, then Guyer grounded into a double play. The Rays had the right idea, but it didn’t work out this time.
Geltz was replaced by the scheduled starter in the game, Matt Andriese, who was instead strong in an extended relief outing. He went 4 shutout innings allowing just 2 hits, striking 2 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was a nice 6-3. The Rays gave him a 2-0 lead on home runs by Souza and Curt Casali in the fifth inning, and it was 3-0 after an error in the sixth. Casali’s blast was the first of his major league career and was a rocket into the left field seats on a misplaced fastball.
Kevin Jepsen tossed a perfect seventh to keep the Rays’ 3-0 advantage intact and Souza drilled his two-run Little League home run before rain delayed the game prior to the bottom of the eighth. Brandon Gomes was initially going to pitch for the Rays, but the team instead went with Ronald Belisario in his team debut. Belisario looked very good, pumping mid-90’s fastballs with all sorts of late movement on his way to tossing 2 hitless frames. He did allow a walk, but he forced an incredible 5 groundball outs. His effort finished a combined two-hitter for Rays pitching.
Tomorrow, the Tampa Bay Rays will look to win three out of four in their home-and-home series against the Nationals, and they have the right pitcher on the mound as they hope to do so. Chris Archer returns to Washington, the spot at which he impressed everyone in his major league debut opposite Stephen Strasburg, as he takes on scheduled Washington starter Doug Fister.