RAYS 2 RED SOX 1
W: Odorizzi (9-5) L: Pomranz (10-10) S: Romero (1)
The Tampa Bay Rays have been playing much better baseball since the All Star break, making that ugly 3-24 stretch before the break that much more glaring. With the best ERA in the AL since that time and a current 6-3 record on their 10-game homestand, they looked to salvage a split against the first place Boston Red Sox on Thursday to finish off the four-game series before heading on the road.
Jake Odorizzi, who was coming off a very impressive outing against the first place Texas Rangers in his last start on August 20th, was sharp early, needing just eight pitches to get through the first inning. Jackie Bradley Jr would notch the first hit of the ballgame off Odorizzi in the top of the second inning but get stranded. Meanwhile, the Rays would have Matt Duffy lead off the bottom of the inning with a single. Sox lefty Drew Pomranz would strike out the side after that, including Mikie Mahtook who is in a very ugly 0-for-33 slump at the plate for the Rays.
The Rays squandered their first scoring threat in the third inning after Luke Maile hit a lead off single, then moved to second after a wild pitch. Logan Forsythe flew out, Kevin Kiermaier grounded out, and Evan Longoria flew out to the track in centerfield to leave the catcher stranded at third.
The very next inning saw Duffy notch his second hit of the afternoon with a one-out double that just missed leaving the park. After a Corey Dickerson fly out and another strikeout from Souza Jr, the Rays squandered yet another early scoring chance off Pomranz.
Through five innings, Odorizzi and Pomranz went pitch for pitch in a scoreless ballgame. The Rays bats struggled to make any kind of contact off the lefty as they compiled 10 strikeouts through just the first five frames.
The Red Sox would finally get to Odorizzi in the sixth. Ryan Holaday led off with a single into right field that fell just in front of Souza Jr. Dustin Pedroia followed with a single, himself. Xander Bogaerts walked to load the bases for Mookie Betts. A sac fly to left field ensued and the scoreless tie was broken as the Sox took a 1-0 lead. The bases were re-loaded on the walk to Hanley Ramirez but after a quick visit by pitching coach, Jim Hickey, Odorizzi got a double play ball on one pitch off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr to get out of the inning allowing just the one run.
Longoria doubled with one out in the bottom of the sixth and Brad Miller followed with a single to score him and tie up the ballgame off Pomranz.
Remember that 0-for-33 slump Mahtook was dealing with? Well he’d snap out of it in a big way in the bottom of the seventh to give the Rays a 2-1 lead. With Souza leading off with a single to right, Mahtook would follow with an RBI double into left center field to score Souza.
Erasmo Ramirez would take over on the hill in the top of the eighth inning relieving Odorizzi who pitched yet another stellar outing and was in line for his ninth win of the season. After giving up a lead-off single to Pedroia, Erasmo needed one pitch to get Bogaerts to ground into a double play erasing the tying run from the basepaths. Mahtook would contribute with his glove next as he gunned down Mookie Betts trying to stretch out a double, ending the inning for Boston and keeping it a one-run Rays lead.
Tyler Sturdevant would come on to start the top of the ninth inning with a slim one-run lead against the best offensive team in baseball. All Star closer, Alex Colome, had pitched 1.2 innings the night before so was seemingly unavailable Thursday. The rookie kicked it off by striking out Hanley Ramirez before being kept in to face the lefty, Jackie Bradley Jr, who he’d also get looking. The Red Sox fans in attendance were on their feet as David Ortiz came to the plate to pinch hit for Chris Young, getting Kevin Cash to the hill to get the ball from Sturdevant and bring in lefty Enny Romero to face “Big Papi.” Romero would go on to strike out Ortiz a pitch after buzzing his head with a 99-MPH fastball to secure the win and series split for the Rays and finish with a 7-3 homestand.
“We needed a lot of things to come together for us to get that win and it seemed like they all did today.” Rays Manager, Kevin Cash, said post game.
The Rays improve to 54-72 on the year while the Red Sox fail, once again, to gain sole control of first place in the East, dropping to 71-56.
The Rays head on the road to Houston for three games beginning Friday against the Astros (66-61) before heading to Boston to face these same Red Sox to round out the trip.
PROBABLES v ASTROS:
8/26 – Drew Smyly (6-11, 4.88) v Mike Fiers (9-6, 4.41)
8/27 – Blake Snell (4-6, 3.17) v Dallas Keuchel (8-12, 4.64)
8/28 – TBD v Doug Fister (12-8, 3.59)
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