Local product McCullers dominant in the Trop Thursday night
In a game that came down to the very last pitch, the Tampa Bay Rays simply could not get on the board in a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Houston Astros. Houston starter Lance McCullers was out in front of the Rays all night, and even a stellar pitching performance by the Rays’ all-hands-on-deck staff could not overcome the defending World Series Champions on Thursday night.
The Rays had a runner in scoring position in the eighth inning. In fact, they had runners on the corners with nobody out. However, a Matt Duffy liner straight at shortstop Marwin Gonazalez led to a double play that helped get Houston out of the inning with their thin margin still intact.
The Opener did his job on Thursday night. Ryne Stanek pitched 1.2 innings, striking out three batters and setting things up for Ryan Yarbrough. Once again, the young Rays pitcher was able to get started against the bottom of the Houston lineup, rather than starting with the fearsome George Springer at the dish. The Astros loaded the bases in the second inning with Yarbrough on the hill, but he was able to come back and strike out that very same George Springer to get out of the frame.
After avoiding disaster in the second, Ryan Yarbrough more than settled down. Taking the brunt of the night’s work, Yarbrough made just one mistake throughout the night, and Jake Marisnick made him pay for it. The center fielder took Yarbrough’s pitch well over the left field wall to give the Astros the early 1-0 lead that would hold throughout.
Yarbrough went 6.1 innings, allowing just the one run and striking out four. The Rays struggled at the plate all night, but once again their strong pitching staff endured to keep them right in the action from start to finish. It was yet another case of the Tampa Bay Rays using their pitching staff, any way they can, to produce outs and get through a tough game. Stanek got the first five outs. Yarbrough added 19 more. Austin Pruitt was called on to take the remaining three, and suddenly the Rays had played their numbers game and reached 27 outs.
The starter for Houston was Lutz’ own Lance McCullers Jr. The local product was fantastic, as he has been all season. McCullers pitched seven innings of shutout ball with a strikeout per inning to his credit. The Rays were only able to muster three hits off of Hillsborough County’s own, with only Matt Duffy getting beyond first base.
The four game weekend set with the Astros continues on Friday night, with another bullpen day for the Rays up against Gerrit Cole. Wilmer Font will get the opening assignment for Kevin Cash’s crew, a role in which he has thrived.
The Rays will have their work cut out for them against Cole, who is in the midst of what could be a career year. He’s been dominant since joining the Astros from Pittsburgh in the offseason, and the lefty comes into the Trop with a 2.56 ERA on the season to back up his 9-1 record.