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Tampa Bay Rays Game 161: Tim Beckham Provides Hope

By Robbie Knopf
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You can say that it is all meaningless at this point. What are the Tampa Bay Rays playing for? We have known for a while that they wouldn’t make the postseason, and Friday’s loss also took a .500 year out of the realm of possibility. Even so, you always want your team to win, and it is nice end the season by wiping away from frustration. On Saturday night, the Rays made the Toronto Blue Jays feel the pain of close losses and blown saves. They watched another team’s promising young closer keep the door ajar and broke through like so many teams had against them.

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The Rays’ ninth inning began extremely promisingly on a Grady Sizemore double off Roberto Osuna. Look at a run expectancy table, and it will tell you that teams with a runner on second with no outs have scored 1.0781 runs on average in the remainder of the inning this season. At that point, the Rays were supposed to tie the game and just maybe win it. Then, as the cynics predicted, it all came apart. Evan Longoria popped out and Asdrubal Cabrera struck out despite getting ahead 3-0 in the count. Osuna threw five straight sliders after getting behind 1-0, the first two for balls but the remainder for strikes, before freezing Cabrera on a fastball on the corner. The Sizemore double looked like a blip on the radar as Osuna found himself.

And then he lost it again. He got ahead of Steven Souza Jr. 1-2, putting the Rays down to their final strike as Souza swung through a fastball above the zone. It seemed inevitable that Osuna would throw the same exact pitch again and the game would be over. Instead, Osuna threw a slider for a ball, but obviously  it was just a setup pitch for another fastball up. Instead, he threw another slider to make the count 3-2 as Dioner Navarro and Osuna had clearly overthought the sequence. Suddenly that fastball up would be ball four if Souza didn’t swing.

Osuna did come back with two fastballs, but they were strikes at the top of the zone and Souza was able to foul them off. Osuna didn’t want to go farther up and risk a walk. However, then he went back to his slider, missed the zone again, and the base on balls was exactly what he gave up. As Brian Anderson emphasized on the Rays’ broadcast, Souza’s plate appearance was nothing short of a gift. The question was what the Rays would do with it.

James Loney then also walked, but we had seen this movie before–the Rays load the bases in a close game before failing to push a single run across. Considering Tim Beckham and not one of the team’s better hitters was coming up to the plate, that outcome seemed especially likely. However, Beckham brought back memories of his scorching start to the season as he found a fastball at the top of the zone and drilled it into left field for a walk-off two-run single. In a season defined by the Paulo Orlando‘s of the world coming through against Brad Boxberger, the Rays were finally able to return the favor.

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Earlier in the game, John Jaso and Cabrera had homered to keep the game close and Chris Archer ended his season in solid fashion. He decided that 212 innings on the season were enough as he felt too fatigued to continue past five innings in this game, but it was nice to see him allow just 1 run on 5 hits after the Blue Jays had hit him around in his previous start. While Brandon Gomes gave up a go-ahead two-run homer to Edwin Encarnacion in the sixth inning, C.J. Riefenhauser, Steve Geltz, and Alex Colome all looked great in relief. Jake McGee didn’t have his best velocity and needed to work around two baserunners, but he tossed a scoreless frame in his team-record 297th relief appearance.

It all ends tomorrow as the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 162. Matt Moore will hope to complete his end-of-season turnaround with another great game while the Blue Jays are set to start Mark Buehrle, who will reportedly toss two innings to reach 200 for the 15th straight year before retiring.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: A Dream Season for Logan Forsythe

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