The Tampa Bay Rays were not in a good spot as they entered the third game of their series with the Boston Red Sox. They had lost the first two games due to sloppy defense and pitching that was far less than perfect. The only good news was that they had finally scored some runs. Today’s game matched left-hander Wade Miley of Boston against Jake Odorizzi, The Rays had done well against lefties, but Miley came in with sparkling results against the Rays.
The Rays led off the first inning with a towering home run from Brandon Guyer over the Green Monster. However, the lead didn’t last long as, in the Red Sox part of the frame, Xander Bogaerts singled, Hanley Ramirez doubled, and Mike Napoli singled to put the Sox up 2-1. Every time in the series that the Rays had taken a lead, the Red Sox had taken it right back. In the third, the Sox struck again as Bogaerts reached base again on a single, stole second base, and scored on David Ortiz‘s double.
The Rays struck back in the top of the fourth with a single from Asdrubal Cabrera and a double from James Loney to make it a 3-2 game, but they proceeded to miss a huge opportunity in the seventh inning. Kevin Kiermaier hit a triple off of Miley with two outs, and after reliever Robbie Ross came in, pinch-hitter Curt Casali was hit by a pitch and Guyer walked. But Joey Butler came to the plate and struck out to end the inning. Hadn’t we seen that movie before?
Luckily, we live in a world where Joey Butler is not the Rays’ best hitter but instead among their worst. In the top of the eighth, the real Rays came to the plate and delivered exactly what the team needed. Evan Longoria began the inning with a double off Junichi Tazawa before Cabrera followed up with a ground-rule double to score him. James Loney followed with a bloop single, and suddenly the Rays were up 4-3. Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger did the rest, with McGee striking out Napoli on a curveball after watching a near-double go foul before Boxberger struck out the side in the ninth for the save.
We can’t know what to make from this game. Odorizzi wasn’t great, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits in 6 innings. He did strike out 6 while walking 1 and toss shutout ball in his last 3 innings, but the Rays need him to be sharper than that because even 4 runs can be difficult for this offense. The Rays also blew another chance to score with the bases loaded, but luckily the bullpen stayed strong, allowing just 1 hit and no walks while striking out 6 in 3 innings, and the offense was able to seize its opportunities against Tazawa.
Wins like this are good, but we remember that an earlier clutch win, July 18th in Toronto, wound up being an outlier in a rough stretch of play. When you receive mediocre pitching and fail to hit the opposing starter, it isn’t often enough that you can beat up the opposing bullpen to come back. If the Rays are going to get back into contention, we need to start seeing more complete wins where the Rays can pair good offense with a strong start and a solid effort on the fielding side.
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Speaking of the fielding, one interesting thing from this game came in one of its worst moments from the Rays’ perspective. On Ramirez’s double to left in the bottom of the first, rookie Mikie Mahtook found himself too close to the Green Monster and the ball began to bound away from him. The player who ended up picking up the ball was none other than Evan Longoria, who ran way into left field to help his team limit the damage. That is something that the Rays must have practiced, but there are plenty of things that the Rays practice that they fail to execute in games. It was great to see Longoria provide the extra effort, and hopefully that is something that we can see more often from this team.
Tomorrow, the Tampa Bay Rays will take on the Chicago White Sox in a game beginning at 8:10 PM EST. Nate Karns will take on Jose Quintana, but the big news is that top prospect Richie Shaffer has been called up to replace Matt Moore on the roster. Monday will be his major league debut, and the hope is that he can add needed punch to the Rays’ lineup with Steven Souza Jr. hurt.