Takeaways from the Rays’ Friday night thriller
What looked at times like a convincing win for the Rays turned into an extra inning thriller on Friday night as the Tampa Bay Rays prevailed on a controversial call at first base and a heads-up running play by Johnny Field in a 8-7 tenth inning win.
Field came charging home as Zach Duke failed to get his foot on the bag following a bouncing ball to first base off the bat of Denard Span. On replay it looked as though Duke’s foot did indeed hit the bag, but umpires and the replay ump in New York begged to differ. The run counted, the play was scored E-1, and the Rays had their second consecutive win.
“I didn’t know if it was getting through the hole or not or if they were going to field it,” said Field, “so I was running.” Field’s persistence paid off, as in the confusion of seeing Span called safe there was simply no time for Duke to throw the ball in to catcher Jason Castro to try and get Field at home. The only chance the Twins had to get out of the inning was the review going their way.
It was a rough night for the bullpens on Friday in St. Petersburg. The Twins rallied for five runs off the Tampa Bay bullpen, taking the lead in the ninth inning, but the Rays tied the game on Fernando Rodney to take the game to extra innings.
The Rays led by as much as 6-2 before the bullpen unraveled. Chris Archer pitched 6.2 strong innings, allowing just two runs in the effort, but it was all erased by late inning struggles as the Twins mounted a frantic comeback.
The Rays managed to tie in the bottom of the ninth. Carlos Gomez stole second after being hit by a pitch, and with two outs Brad Miller put one just barely over shortstop Eduardo Escobar to tie the game.
Denard Span contributed three runs batted in on the night, including knocking home the runs that put the Rays ahead in the fifth. Coming into the eighth inning, the Rays held a lead of 6-2, but that’s when the bullpen began to unravel, tying the game late and changing the face of the ballgame.
Some thoughts on the Rays and Friday night’s game:
-Chris Archer’s primary job, as the top starter on the Rays, is to “save the bullpen” and eat up as much of a game as possible before handing the ball over to the relievers. This is made all the more important, of course, for a Rays team that insists on the three-man rotation experiment, devoting two games every week to bullpen work.
Archer did that for the most part on Friday night, putting up his first quality start of the season. Archer went 6.2 innings, allowing just five hits and two runs. He walked one and struck out five. 92 pitches were thrown in the start. He left the bullpen with just seven outs to get, albeit with a one run lead.
Archer was in high spirits after the game, deferring largely to the work of his battery-mate. “I felt good. Wilson [Ramos] did a great job out there. … He’s a game changer behind the plate with the ability to call the game, to throw, to block.”
-The bullpen, always a point of concern, had a moment of tension on Friday night when Jose Alvarado and Sergio Romo combined to load the bases in the eighth inning. After Romo induced a strikeout from Miguel Sano, he was left in to face lefty Eddie Rosario. Romo struggles with left handed hitters, and Rosario had two grand slams coming in. Romo couldn’t keep the left fielder in the ballpark, and suddenly Archer’s performance led to nothing but a no-decision.
-Logan Morrison came into Friday night’s game hitting .068. That abysmal number was the worst in baseball. In fact, his entire slash line was the worst in baseball. Coming into Friday night, Morrison’s WAR was “what is it good for”. Yet there he was, giving the Twins the lead in the second inning by taking Chris Archer’s pitch over the right field fence. It was Morrison’s first game back at the Trop after two seasons with the Rays, proving again that there is little in baseball that is more dangerous than an ex-player returning to play against you.
-Tampa’s own Denard Span remains on top of his game with the Rays. He doubled in two runs in the fifth to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. He did get caught at home trying to take an extra base on confusion resulting from an infield hit, but the big at bat has become a theme in Span’s first few weeks with Tampa Bay. Span would later have a two run single, helping close the book on Minnesota starter Lance Lynn.
-Brian Dozier of the Twins extended his hitting streak to 14 games in 2018, and 21 dating back to last season when he singled off Chris Archer in the 6th inning. The 14 game streak is currently the longest in the league.
-Daniel Robertson is seeing the ball extremely well out of pitchers’ hands. He drove up Lance Lynn’s pitch count Friday night, seeing 21 pitches across his first three plate appearances. In the third appearance, he drew a nine-pitch walk, then advanced first-to-third on a run and hit single. Lynn threw 95 pitches on Friday night. Over 1/5 of those pitches were thrown to Daniel Robertson. In all, the third baseman saw 28 pitches on the night, going 1’/3 with an RBI single and a walk. He wore down the starter and got through against a reliever.
-The manager’s challenge came back to bite the Rays, possibly twice. They used their challenge on a Mallex Smith near-catch in the fourth inning, where the ball squirted out of his glove at the end. The play was not overturned, nor should it have been. The very next at bat, Max Kepler barely legged out a single that might have been overturned on replay. Later on, the bottom of the sixth ended on a caught stealing call against Joey Wendle that really looked on replay like Wendle had beaten the tag. The Rays had a runner on third at the time, and could have had a big sixth had it been allowed to continue