The Tampa Bay Rays went into today’s game having dropped six straight to the Kansas City Royals. Considering how badly the Rays have been playing and how strong the Royals are this year, you had to wonder whether today’s game would turn into another loss. The Rays were sending Nate Karns up against lefty Danny Duffy. Karns has had a good rookie season, but some horrific first innings and high pitch counts have made the year a little uneven. On the other hand, the Rays had done a good job against lefties and Duffy has faced struggles of his own.
The Rays got off to a good start in the first inning when Brandon Guyer opened the game with a single and moved to second on an error. After a walk, the Rays made two straight outs and it looked like another wasted opportunity. However, Joey Butler came through with a single to put the Rays up 1-0. Butler has continued to come up with key hits since returning from Triple-A Durham. Hopefully he made enough adjustments down there to at least be a useful platoon player against lefties the remainder of the season.
Unfortunately, the Royals came back in the third. Omar Infante led off with a single and then the wheels came off the bus. Drew Butera laid down a bunt and the Rays’ infielders were totally out of position, allowing Butera to be safe at first without a throw. Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain followed with singles and the Royals had a 2-1 lead.
The Rays answered back in the bottom of the third with a Guyer home run to tie the game at 2-2. Guyer has been healthy this year and has proved to be a valuable part of the Rays’ outfield rotation. You could make a case for him to playing regularly for the rest of the year, especially with Desmond Jennings out. Guyer continues to be better against lefties, entering today with a .257/.382/.404 line, but his .269/.347/.370 line versus righties is not too shabby either.
The Rays took the lead in the seventh on dramatic line drive home run by Kevin Kiermaier. It was his second in two days as Kiermaier continues to show that he should be an everyday player. He has now started 11 of the Rays’ last 12 games against left-handed pitchers as he has beennearly impossible to remove from the lineup. Combining his hot bat with his excellent glove and blazing speed has made him into a critical player for this team.
However, the play of the game was in the eighth inning. With Alex Colome in a jam–one out with runners on first and third–Kendrys Morales hit a grounder to first and Loney threw out Zobrist at the plate. Morales, thinking the ball was foul, didn’t move towards first and was tagged out by Rene Rivera to end the inning. Colome was not pitching well and it looked like he might blow the lead, but before we knew it, the Rays had escaped the inning.
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Karns went five innings and was followed up by Xavier Cedeno, Colome, and Brad Boxberger. The relief trio threw four scoreless innings with Cedeno getting the win and Boxberger his league-leading 32nd save. Boxberger has obviously had his issues, but it is interesting to look around baseball and see that others like Greg Holland, Santiago Casilla, and Cody Allen have also had their share of problems. What’s done is done for Boxberger, and the hope is that he can find more consistency the remainder of the year.
The Tampa Bay Rays entered this series having lost two out of three to Minnesota and despite this win, they dropped two out of three to the Royals. They have to clean up their sloppy play and score more runs if they are going to make a run at a Wild Card berth. Hopefully this game is the start of something and the run continues on Monday night in Baltimore. It will be a 7:05 start with Chris Archer going against Baltimore lefty Wei-Yin Chen.