Rays Continue Experiments At Thunderdome Labs

Adames homers in debut, but Faria leaves with injury in Red Sox win over Rays

With nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, and the Rays trailing by two, Jesus Sucre drew a walk against Craig Kimbrel.  This brought shortstop Willy Adames, in his MLB debut, to the plate.  Earlier, he had homered off of Chris Sale for his first MLB hit, quite the accomplishment against one of the league’s finest starters, but here he found himself against a top-notch closer.

Adames fought to an eight-pitch at bat, but it was Kimbrel who got the better of it with a strikeout swinging.  Kimbrel finished off the ninth, despite loading the bases, and the Red Sox defeated the Rays at the building once known as Thunderdome 4-2 on Tuesday night.

Having traded veterans like Evan Longoria and letting others leave via free agency, some teams in the Rays’ position might “tank,” which is a polite way of suggesting a team is throwing an entire season’s worth of games.  Others might try to win with what they have, plowing ahead in a futile season.  The Tampa Bay Rays, however, have taken a different tack.

Call them Major League Baseball’s great science experiment.  The Rays are currently a testing ground for some revolutionary ideas within baseball, and the Trop is a laboratory for the Rays to test out their prospects and young talent.

The Rays might not have been prepared to call up shortstop Willy Adames a couple of weeks ago, but they brought Adames to the big club on Tuesday.  Quite a debut to have to face Chris Sale, one of the most effective pitchers in baseball, on his first day in the bigs.  Adames delivered in a big way, launching a solo home run to left field on his second at bat, the Rays’ first run of the night.  It was the fifth time a Rays player hit a home run in his Major League Debut, and the first time it has happened for any team at Tropicana Field.

The third inning was a bit of a worst-case scenario for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Starting pitcher Jake Faria walked Sandy Leon with one out, then gave up a single that could easily have been scored an error to Jackie Bradley Jr.  This led to a home run by Mookie Betts that put the Red Sox on top 3-0.  Two batters later, Faria experience discomfort pitching to Hanley Ramirez.  Trainers came out, and eventually Kevin Cash took the baseball.  The injury was described as an oblique strain.  Two more batters later, a low Austin Pruitt pitch bounced up and hit catcher Wilson Ramos in the hand.  Once again the training staff came out, and once again they left with the player.  Jesus Sucre took Ramos’ place, and the Rays await word on Ramos.  The bases ended up loaded, care of two walks and a hit batsman, but Pruitt got out of the jam.  In the bottom of the frame, adding insult to injuries, Daniel Robertson was picked off of first on a C.J. Cron flyout to center that Robertson had thought would land but did not.

Adames’ home run came in the fourth, his first Major League hit and RBI, to get the Rays on the board.  It was a big blow from someone whose MLB debut was hotly anticipated.  One of Tampa Bay’s top prospects coming into the season, Adames didn’t arrive for the game until about 40 minutes before first pitch, and it’s expected that Adames will only play a few days until Joey Wendle returns from paternity leave.  Still, it’s an effective cup of coffee that suggests the young shortstop could be ready for the big show whenever he’s needed.  His positive debut just creates more options for a team always willing to explore more options.

The Rays added a second run in the fifth, started by a Rob Refsnyder double.  Refsnyder advanced to third on a passed ball and came around to score on a Daniel Robertson sacrifice fly.  At the time, the score was 3-2 and suddenly the Rays were within easy striking distance despite the presence of Chris Sale on the mound for Boston.  The Red Sox would extend their lead in the top of the 6th on a Rafael Devers solo shot.  That brought the score to 4-2, where the game would end.  Craig Kimbrel came on for the ninth to get the save.

Chris Sale got the start for Boston, and the ace did not disappoint.  The lefty and native Floridian went 7.2 innings, striking out nine and surrendering just one earned run.  Sale, who went to Lakeland High School, has rounded into the best pitcher in the AL East at bare minimum, and one of the hardest to hit in all of baseball.

In absence of Faria, who left after 2.2 innings with his oblique strain, it was Austin Pruitt left to pick up the slack.  Pruitt did a fine job of that, going 5.1 innings in relief and surrendering just the home run to Rafael Devers.

The series with Boston continues on Wednesday night, as Boston sends David Price to the hill against Chris Archer, a pairing of former teammates.  Price has had an up-and-down season, scattering a few fantastic starts in with a couple of rough ones and some slight injury concerns brought up by his love of the video game Fortnite.  Still, even with the Red Sox’ seemingly loaded lineup and rotation, Price’s performance could be the difference between Boston being a good team and a great one.

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Tim Williams has been covering sports since his days as a student at Northeastern University covering events such as the Beanpot. In the thirteen years since, he has covered college hockey, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the PGA Tour, and the National Hockey League. A native of the Tampa Bay area, Tim has returned home after living much of his life in the northeast, including sixteen years in the Boston area. These days the Managing Editor of Sports Talk Florida can be found on Florida's golf courses when he's not working.