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Tampa Bay Rays: Austin Pruitt’s Redemption, News and Notes

By Althea Pashman
Apr 18, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (right) is congratulated by first baseman Logan Morrison (7) after scoring during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 18, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (right) is congratulated by first baseman Logan Morrison (7) after scoring during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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In a wild and crazy game on Wednesday night, the real Austin Pruitt arrived and the Tampa Bay Rays were walk-off winners against Detroit.

Staked to an early 5-1 lead after four innings, Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer was cruising along in what looked to be his third win of the season. However, Archer’s nemesis – the pitch count began taking hold and by the time he exited the game, the lead had shrunk to one run.

Despite striking out a season high nine batters, Archer had thrown 104 pitches en route to his second no-decision of the season before handing over the ball to the bullpen with a 5-4 lead. Danny Farquhar followed, faced three batters and gave way to Jumbo Diaz who proceeded to walk three to load the bases before the bottom fell out in the sixth inning.

Nicholas Castellanos, who had hit a triple in his first at-bat against Archer, did it again with the bases loaded against Diaz to clear the bases and give the Tigers a 7-5 lead. However, the triple was aided by Kevin Kiermaier’s failure to catch the ball. Kiermaier usually makes this type of play – diving for the ball, but this time the ball got away, rolling to the wall for the triple.

With the Tigers now up 7-5, Ray’s manager Kevin Cash turned to Austin Pruitt and after failing in his previous appearances in which he had allowed runs in all six games, the real Pruitt finally arrived.

Pruitt would pitch the final 3.1 innings, allowing just one hit with five strikeouts and no walks to pick up his first major league win. Pruitt would retire the first eight batters he faced before a ninth inning single to Miguel Cabrera.

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Pruitt who had 18 strikeouts in 16.2 innings during spring training came through big time with his performance, as the five strikeouts were the most by a Ray’s reliever since Chase Whitley’s performance against the White Sox last September. More importantly though, he threw strikes and was in command.

“It puts you in the driver’s seat instead of the passenger’s seat,” Pruitt said of throwing strikes.

Meanwhile, the Rays were facing defeat as they headed into the ninth inning if not for an amazing and very weird comeback that ended with Jose Iglesias tripping over the bag at second base allowing two runs to score and the Rays to walk-off with an 8-7 win.

The scenario for the win started when Kiermaier walked and advanced to third on Longoria’s double. Wanting speed on the bases, Cash sent Peter Bourjos in to run for Longoria. Detroit closer Francisco Rodriguez intentionally walked Brad Miller to load the bases bringing up Steven Souza Jr. who could play the hero, however Rodriguez struck out Souza to bring up Logan Morrison.

Morrison would hit what looked to be a sure double play turned into a two-run error as Iglesias was not able to complete the play when he tripped over the bag and collided with Miller, throwing into the ground and wide of first allowing Kiermaier and Bourjos to score.

Evan Longoria decided that it was time for a change, in hopes of getting out of his slump shaved his full beard and it worked, at least for night. Longoria would have his first multi-hit game since opening day against the Yankees and his first three-hit game since last September against Baltimore. As well, his three RBIs tied his season high from opening day and it was the first time since last August against Toronto that he reached base four times.

According to Elias, the Rays had not won any of their previous 102 games in which they trailed in the ninth inning or later since October 3, 2015 against Toronto. This streak had been the second longest only behind the Minnesota Twins with 128.

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Despite somewhat of a decent start, Archer’s start was his shortest since last August against Boston when he also went just five innings. However, in his first two starts this season, Archer totaled 14.2 innings and has followed that up with only 10.2 innings in his last two starts. On the positive side of things, first off – Archer has not allowed a home run this season and has matched the longest streak of his career; secondly, Archer is finally getting run support.

Via the Rays media department, Archer has received 21 runs of support through his first four starts this season, compared to just two runs of support last year – additionally, it took Archer nine starts last season before he received 21 runs of support.

Next: Rays Prospect Ryan Boldt Making Progress

Following the Rays series against the Tigers, the Rays will host the Houston Astros in a three-game weekend series beginning Friday night.

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