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Rays Take 3 From AL-Best in Houston

Photo By Skip Milos | Tampa Bay Rays

A win Sunday in New York put the Rays at 12-12 for July. Trying to end the month on a high, Tampa Bay traveled to Texas for 100+ degree games. Luckily, they got to play in a dome. Well, kinda.

Coming off a four game series in New York where the Rays dropped 3-of-4 to the A.L. East leading Yankees, Tampa Bay heading directly to Houston to face another division leader, the Astros (68-36). Houston has taken control of the A.L. West and, unless something drastic happens, will probably secure the division in the beginning of September at this rate.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay (54-52) has started off to a rough second half, and have fallen back to third in the division behind both the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Although struggling, the Rays showed the strength of their division as they went in and took _-of-4 from the powerhouse Astros.

The week started on a sad note for fans, as the Rays said goodbye to Tim Beckham, as he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles just before the 4PM deadline on Monday.

Monday

The series started out the same as several others since the All-Star break, with the Rays on the losing end. Ordinarily, putting seven runs on the board is enough to win the game 9-of-10 times. That is, unless the opponent puts up 14. And that is just what Houston did in the first game of the series.

Astro Jake Marisnick accounted for almost as many runs as the Rays finished with by himself, with two home runs and five RBI. Four other Houston batters each two RBI a piece. Alex Cobb (9-7, 3.89 ERA) suffered the brunt of the damage, allowed eight runs in just 3.0 innings, including a pair of homers. Cobb did not manage a single strikeout in his 64 pitch, nine hit outing.

The highlight on the mound for Tampa Bay was Brad Boxberger, who pitched a scoreless seventh for the Rays and allowed just two hits. Jesus Sucre, who is used to being behind the mound, was put in the game to pitch for the eighth. Allowing three runs on two hits, two walks, and a balk, Sucre’s season ERA is a massive 27.00. It wasn’t the first time on the mound for the catcher though; he pitched in two games for Seattle in 2015.

The Rays did not go quietly at the plate though. Corey Dickerson took two balls out of the park, taking him to 21 home runs on the season. Lucas Duda added a long ball of his own for his 20th. Mallex Smith, Taylor Featherston, and Wilson Ramos drove in the rest of the Tampa Bay runs, but that wasn’t enough.

Tuesday

Ending July with a loss and now sitting just one game over .500, Tampa Bay needed a statement to begin August. And they accomplished that feat in game two of the series.

Chris Archer (8-6, 3.89 ERA) allowed six hits and four runs over 6.0 innings, with the four runs being the only given up by Tampa Bay pitching. Steve Cishek, Dan Jennings, Tommy Hunter, and Alex Colome combined for three scoreless innings, with the only hit being given up by Cishek in the seventh. Colome collected his 31st save, extending his American League lead in the category.

Unlike Monday, game two was not a blow-out, as the Rays won 6-4. But, Tuesday was a historic game for Tampa Bay’s longest tenured player. Evan Longoria, in his tenth season with the Rays, hit for the cycle on Tuesday. Just the second cycle in team history (Melvin Upton Jr, 2009), Longoria’s is the sixth in the majors this season. Even though there have been six this season, a cycle is not a common feat. In fact, there have been just 317 since 1882. Longoria’s was capped off after an official review in the ninth called him safe at second with a double.

Ironically, the first cycle this season was from former Ray Wil Myers, with San Diego, and the last cycle of 2016 was another former Tampa Bay player, Pittsburgh’s John Jaso.

Logan Morrison hit his 27th home run of the year as well. It came after Longoria;s home run, the 12th time the Rays went yard back-to-back this season. The win put the Rays back to two games over .500 at (55-53), and gave them a great start to the second to last month of play.

To add to his historic night, Longoria’s two runs scored took him to 766 lifetime, giving him the franchise record.

Wednesday

For game three, the Rays had a real challenge ahead, as Austin Pruitt was sent up against ace Dallas Keuchel, who had not lost yet this season. Pruitt (6-2, 5.65 ERA), a rookie making just his third career start, proved to be up to the test.

Pruitt not only took the win, but the shutout win against arguably one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. Allowing just five hits and one walk through 6.1 innings, Pruitt managed to keep all but one Astro from reaching third base. Keuchal on the other hand, allowed three runs on seven hits, only striking out two Tampa Bay batters and took his first loss of the season. Colome collected another save (32), giving him five more than anyone else in the American League.

Even though it was just the first, Morrison hit what ended up being the game winning home run with two outs and a man on. Morrison, who’s career high was 23 in 2011, already has 28 this season and we just started August. The third run for Tampa Bay came as Brad Miller drove home Ramos. Miller, who has spent nearly two months of the season on the disabled list, has been clutch since returning July 7th. Showing up when the Rays need him most, Miller has 14 hits and 11 RBI since coming off his second DL stint.

The impressive shutout win put Tampa Bay at 56-53, putting them just a half game back of Kansas City for the second wild card spot as they entered play Thursday.

Thursday

Astros ace Dallas Keuchel was less than thrilled with how the front office handled the trade deadline. When asked about it, he wasn’t shy with his remarks.

“I’m not going to lie. Disappointment is a little bit of an understatement,” Keuchel told reporters.

On Thursday, the Rays took advantage of the Astros’ only deadline addition. Francisco Liriano, making his debut with his new club took the loss as Houston fell 5-3 to the Rays.

Steven Souza Jr led the way for Tampa Bay offensively. His 2-for-4, 3-RBI performance included a home run and a 2-run double. His 23 home runs are second, to Morrison, and the right fielder leads the team with 68 RBI.

Manager Kevin Cash certainly understands what Souza brings to his club.

“Souz gets a ton of credit. Big hits. That’s why we miss him when he’s not in the lineup. I know he banged his foot up, but we need his bat because he balances it out. He gives us that right-hander in there that thickens us up and challenges righty or lefty, and he came up with two huge hits today.”

After taking three in a row from the Astros, the Rays find themselves just 0.5 game behind the Kansas City Royals for the second AL Wild Car spot.

Due Up

The Rays kick off a nine game home stand on Friday night against the Milwaukee Brewers. Jacob Faria (5-1; 2.93) gets the start opposite Brandon Woodruff, making his MLB-debut. Woodruff was scheduled to make his debut on Tuesday against the Cardinals but hamstring tightness caused him to be a last-minute scratch.

 

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