Watch the last two games, and it seems like the Tampa Bay Rays are losing the winnable contests and winning the ones where they face longer odds. In any event, they will take the win in this game to honor Carlos Pena‘s retirement and hope that more consistent results are on the way to finish the season.
Drew Smyly‘s consistency since returning from the DL has been remarkable–but far from exclusively in a good way. The pattern continues: bad start, shutout start, bad start, shutout start, bad start, shutout start, bad start. Yes, he has alternated poor outings with scoreless ones. He finished with 5.2 innings surrendering 5 runs on 4 hits, striking out 6 while walking 3. For the third time in his four bad starts, he gave up two home runs. After Brandon Gomes and Steve Geltz were great in middle relief, Brad Boxberger then gave up a homer but was able to finish the save.
When you win despite giving up eight runs, your offense obviously did some heavy lifting. That was quite true in this game, and it was quite appropriate given that it was Pena’s evening. Mikie Mahtook had a career day, going 5 for 5 with 2 doubles and a run scored. We knew that Mahtook could mash against lefties, but now he is even hitting righties. He will still likely end up as a fourth outfielder for this team, but the chances of him doing that to start next season–and being very good at the job–are only increasing.
The Rays exploded for 5 runs in the fifth, 4 of which came in legitimate fashion: rocket doubles by Grady Sizemore and James Loney. Then Nick Franklin hit a little popup that dropped in center to bring another run home. In any event, it was nice to see Sizemore step up in an opportunity to hit cleanup while Loney continued his hot hitting. Tim Beckham also drilled a 2-run home run to pull the Rays within 3-2 right after the Orioles had taken a 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning.
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The Rays also received quite a bit of luck for once. Aside from the Franklin hit, we can talk about two plays in the third inning. Nolan Reimold hit a rocket to left field on which Sizemore turned the wrong way, but he was able to right himself on his way to a nice catch. Later in the frame, Smyly picked off Manny Machado off of first base only to watch neither Evan Longoria nor Beckham cover second quickly enough. Longoria got there eventually, but Machado was called safe sliding into second. For once, though, the call was overturned to help the Rays escape further damage.
There was also a cool moment in that same top of the third when Chris Davis hit a flyball that was caught rather nonchalantly and easily by outfield prospect Zac Law, who was enjoying a meal in the stands. Law was named the Advanced Rookie Princeton Rays’ MVP after hitting to a .270/.330/.418 line with 8 homers, 12 stolen bases, and strong centerfield defense to help lead the team to the league championship series. It was a nice catch and helps him gain a little bit of notoriety. He has been quite impressive since the Rays managed to sign him out of high school in the 23rd round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Tomorrow, Erasmo Ramirez will hope to win his 11th game and put the Tampa Bay Rays ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the four-game series between the two teams. Wei-Yin Chen will be on the mound for Baltimore.