Home Sweet Home, Rays Defeat Yankees In Home Opener

Rays Score Double Digit Runs, Defeat Yankees 10-5

St. Petersburg, FL – The last time the Rays played at Tropicana Field in front of fans was Game 4 of the 2019 American League Division Series against the Houston Astros – a span of 548 days. On Friday afternoon 9,021 (maximum allowable) fans were at Tropicana Field to see the Rays live and in person. Tampa Bay did not let them down rewarding them with a 10-5 victory over the New York Yankees.

Rich Hill (1-0, 7.20 ERA) picks up the win for Tampa Bay who end a four game losing streak and see their record to improve to 3-4. Hill worked six innings, allowed four earned runs, on four hits while striking out seven and walking none. The win also improves Tampa Bay to 12-12 all-time in home openers.

Corey Kluber (0-1, 5.68 ERA) takes the loss for New York who see their record fall to 3-4. He worked just 2.1-innings allowing five runs, three earned on five hits while striking out three and walking two. The loss is the Yankees second in a row, the first time they’ve lost back to back games this season.

Joey Wendle enjoyed playing in front of fans at Tropicana Field. “It was fun. We haven’t seen fans there in a long time.” Wendle said. “To have the crowd there and have them getting in the game there especially toward the end was just fun. Combine that with the banner and stuff like that at the beginning of the game , just kind of a special game and fun.”

How It Happened

Tampa Bay started the scoring in the second inning as Yandy Diaz reached on a DJ LeMahieu throwing error. LeMahieu was originally in the lineup at second base, but Giovanny Urshela was placed on the Covid Restricted list prior to the game due to symptoms from the vaccine. Tyler Wade entered the game at second base and LeMahieu moved to third. After a Joey Wendle single Willy Adames doubled in Diaz for the games first run. Brett Phillips, just off the injured list, delivered a sacrifice fly to score Wendle with the Rays second run.

The lead wouldn’t last long as New York rallied with two outs to put up four runs in the top of the third. Tyler Wade started the rally by bouncing a ball over Rich Hill for an infield single. LeMahieu followed with a ground rule double and Giancarlo Stanton delivered a 2-RBI single to right field to tie the game. Aaron Hicks followed with a 2-run homer to push the Yankee lead to 4-2.

Corey Kluber was unable to keep the lead as the Rays rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third inning to take a 5-4 lead. Yoshi Tsutsugo singled and Austin Meadows walked to open the inning. Randy Arozarena singled to score Tsutsugo. After Kluber struck out Brandon Lowe on a questionable check swing appeal he walked Yandy Diaz. Aaron Boone went to his bullpen and summoned Nick Nelson. Joey Wendle greeted him with an opposite field double scoring a pair of runs giving Tampa Bay the 5-4 lead.

Rich Hill came out after the Rays gave him the 5-4 lead and retired New York on 10 pitches for the coveted important shutdown inning. “It was big. You want to do everything as a pitcher they thrive on getting those shutdown innings.” Kevin Cash said. “We missed our chance the first time but he really locked it in. He just really looked in synch today competed really well. The strike throwing was tremendous.”

For Hill, quick innings are always important and part of his game. “I always want to have quick innings. I always want to get our guys back in the dugout and back in the box and continue to move quickly.” He said. “Keep the pace of the game up so guys aren’t standing around behind me. They want to see action quick. You throw strikes and you put the hitters on the defense and you make them swing the bat and good things happen.”

The offense, eager to get back in the batters box, delivered four runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 9-4 lead. The Rays loaded the bases for Brandon Lowe who delivered a bases clearing double to put the Rays up on top 8-4. Lowe came in to score on a Yandy Diaz single to right.

Tampa Bay scored their last run on a Willy Adames solo homer in the seventh inning. It was Adames first homer of the season.

Rich Hill retired the last 10 batters he faced and was replaced in the seventh inning by Hunter Strickland. Strickland was added to the roster prior to the game as Tampa Bay had to place Peter Fairbanks on the injured list with a strained rotator cuff. Strickland worked two very good innings allowing one run on a home run to DJ LeMahieu which was the only hit he allowed. He struck out three and walked one.

Chris Mazza worked the ninth inning and kept the Yankees off the scoreboard despite allowing a pair of hits.

Fairbanks Placed On Injured List:

The Rays bullpen suffered another blow as Peter Fairbanks has been placed on the 10-day injury list with a strained right rotator cuff. To take his place in the bullpen the Rays selected Hunter Strickland from the alternate site. To make room on the 40-man roster for Strickland the Rays designated for assignment Joe Odom.

Fairbanks said to reporters prior to the game that he felt sore after his last outing against the Red Sox. He said he expected to miss about a month. The timeline based on Kevin Cash‘s comments may be somewhat longer. “I would envision him being shut down for probably 2-3 weeks of no throwing and then we’ll see where he’s at, build him back up, hopefully he’s recovering rehabbing well, but the whole things not ideal.” Based on Cash’s timeline, the return is more 5-6 weeks out than a month.

Losing Fairbanks is a blow but Cash was optimistic that some improvements shown in a lackluster spring training for Strickland will be enough to get big outs for the Rays. “What we always say about spring results. We try not to put too much emphasis on them.” Cash said. “Hunter made some nice adjustments, his velo ticked up, the slider ticked up velocity wise and he showed the ability to land it in the zone in any count. In talking to Rick Knapp down there at the alternate site that he’s in a really good spot.”

Losing Fairbanks will not lead to a shift in the Rays bullpen. Diego Castillo will still pitch the ninth if he’s not needed in the seventh or eight.

Additionally, Cash doesn’t foresee altering the development (as starters) of Shane McClanahan, Luis Patino, or Josh Fleming at this time. “We came out with a plan, really wanting to prioritize those guys as starting pitchers. I’m not sure this is quite the moment to get off that plan. I think all three of those guys have a chance to help us during the year. There’s still work to be done for all of them individually and their build up.”

Phillips Returns From Injury:

Brett Phillips returned from the injured list. The Rays normally aren’t as aggressive with a guy coming back from injury as they are with Phillips, something Cash acknowledged. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that rehab, I know it went well, but it’s a little quicker than maybe we’d like but we’re so banged up, nixed up, that we felt it made the most sense to get him up.” Cash added that Phillips adds a lot to the team. “A guy that can cover a lot of ground out there, play really good defense, and you know what, he was swinging the bat well before the injury , maybe provide a little bit of a spark offensively for us.”

Rays Injury List:

Nick Anderson (Right elbow sprain – 60 day ), Jalen Beeks (recovery from Tommy John surgery – 60-day), Yonny Chirinos (recovery from Tommy John surgery – 60-day),  Oliver Drake (right flexor tendon strain – 60-day), Colin Poche (recovery from Tommy John surgery – 60-day), Chaz Roe (right shoulder strain – 10-day), Ji-Man Choi (arthroscopic surgery, right knee – 10-day), Kevin Kiermaier (strained quad – 10 day), Peter Fairbanks (strained right rotator cuff – 10-day)

Up Next For Rays:

The Rays and Yankees will play the second game of their three game series on Saturday afternoon at 1:10. The Rays will send Chris Archer (0-1, 13.50 ERA) to the mound. The Yankees counter with Domingo German (0-1, 9.00 ERA). The start will be Archers first at Tropicana Field since July 22, 2018 against the Miami Marlins. In that game Archer worked six innings allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits while striking out 13 and walking none.