Meadows Blast Backs Rays Arms In Opening Day Win Over MarlinsFollow @Steve_Kinsella1
Tampa – Austin Meadows homered in the eighth inning to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 1-0 victory over the Miami Marlins. With the win the Rays even their Opening Day record to 12-12 and end a two-game Opening Day losing streak (Toronto in 2020, Houston in 2019). Ryan Thompson (1-0, 0.00 ERA) picked up the win and Diego Castillo worked the ninth to notch his first save of the season. Yimi Garcia (0-1, 9.00 ERA) who allowed the Meadows homer took the loss for the Marlins.
The venerable wordsmith Frank Deford penned an essay for Sports Illustrated titled Spring Has Sprung that captures a lot of what Opening Day means to the fans. He opens with “Opening Day. There is only one and it’s baseball. The theater has opening nights scattered here and there about the calendar, and there are various opening days of….the fishing season, the race meeting, the NFL season. But there is only one Opening Day, when grandmothers drop like flies and dreams are born anew.”
The Rays first goal is to win the American League East, but their ultimate goal is to bring home a World Series Championship. Giving them the opportunity to have their own boat parade like the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to have for winning the Stanley Cup and the Vince Lombardi Trophy respectively.
In order to reach that pinnacle the Rays are going to need the top of their rotation to provide quality and efficient innings. That’s exactly what they got from Tyler Glasnow, making his first career Opening Day start, who leaned on his fastball slider combination in shutting down the Marlins for six innings.
In his six innings of work Glasnow allowed only one hit while striking out six and walking none. The only hit he allowed was an infield single to Jesus Aguilar that Yandy Diaz couldn’t get a grip on forcing a double clutch and errant throw.
Last season Glasnow primarily threw his fastball (60.6%) and his curveball (24.8%) with the balance being a slider (3.9%) and his changeup (5.1%). Of his 76 pitches against the Marlins he threw his fastball (52%), slider (36%), curveball (11%). His fastball averaged 97.9 mph and generated seven swing and misses, the slider averaged 88 mph and generated five swing and misses, and the curveball averaged 88.1 mph and generated a pair of swing and misses.
“I had seen a lot of success with it [the slider] in spring” Glasnow said after the game. “It definitely felt good to feel how I felt this spring and then take it directly into the regular season.”
Glasnow credits pitching coach Kyle Snyder for helping him develop the pitch. “Honestly, so much of it too is working with Kyle [Snyder] like how amazing he is. It’s the first time we’ve really gotten down to try and figure out a new pitch and was like two bullpens in and we really started to figure it out. Every bullpen, every throwing session he’s kind of been on me.”
Glasnow had been looking forward to swinging the bat but in his two plate appearances the bat never left his shoulders. That was by design but not for the reason you may think. In his postgame interview, Manager Kevin Cash revealed that Glasnow was dealing with a minor back ailment during the game.
“It was more like running [the issue] and I didn’t want to chance it.” said Glasnow. “I didn’t want to swing, which is unfortunate because I don’t know when I’ll be able to swing again.”
The Rays offense was unable to generate anything off Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara who held the Rays scoreless for six innings on two hits while striking out seven and walking two.
The Rays squandered a pair of opportunities against the tough right hander, one in the first and one in the fourth. The Rays loaded the bases in the first but Kevin Kiermaier struckout. Brandon Lowe led of the fourth with a hustle double but wasn’t able to advance as Yandy Diaz flied out to center and Kevin Kiermaier and Willy Adames each struck out.
The Rays scored the games first run in the eighth inning on a solo homer by Austin Meadows off a Yimi Garcia 95.2 mph fastball. The ball traveled 419 feet at a launch angle of 28 degrees. Meadows never got his season into a groove in 2020 beginning with testing positive for Covid-19 prior to the season. A return to his 2019 form, a season in which he hit .291/.364/.558 with 33 homers would be welcomed by the Rays and their fans alike.
In his post-game zoom meeting Meadows admitted that the game winning homer hasn’t really hit him yet. “I think it’s more like being in the moment with the close game there, both pitchers going at it, we know it’s going to be one of those games where probably one or two swings would win the game or change the game. Being able to come up there in the eighth and do that was definitely awesome.”
The Marlins mounted a rally in the eighth inning against Peter Fairbanks. Catcher Jorge Alfaro singled with one out and stole second base. Garrett Cooper walked and after a mound visit by pitching coach Kyle Snyder Fairbanks retired Corey Dickerson on a fly out to center.
Tampa Bay had a chance to add on in the top of the ninth against Ross Detwiler. Kevin Kiermaier and Willy Adames delivered back to back singles and Adam Cimber came on to replace Detwiler. Mike Zunino drew a walk to load the bases for Manuel Margot who grounded to third in a 9-pitch at-bat ending the inning.
Rays Open Year Still Struggling In Two Areas:
Two areas the Rays are looking to improve on this season is batting with runners in scoring position and reducing the strike outs. The two areas remained a problem in the opener as they finished the game 0-for 5 with runners in scoring position and struck out 12 times.
The inability to hit in the clutch means more than likely the Rays will be involved in close games. Last season they played 33 games decided by two runs or less tied with the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays for most in the majors. The Rays went 23-10 (.667 win%) in those games, which was the best winning percentage in the majors.
Rays Pen Solid:
Without Nick Anderson the Rays turned to Ryan Thompson to work the seventh, Pete Fairbanks to work the eighth, and Diego Castillo to close the game in the ninth. The trio allowed two hits while striking out and walking one. Glasnow said after the game the bullpen “was amazing as always, it was like we just picked up from years prior. It’s that weird feeling of when they do come in you have so much confidence because I’ve seen them do it for so many times.”
Fans Welcomed Back:
The game was played in front of 7,062 fans. The Marlins have permission to operate at 27% capacity.
Up Next For Rays:
The Rays and Marlins will meet up again Friday night at 7:10. Ryan Yarbrough (1-4, 3.56 ERA in 2020) will take the mound for Tampa Bay. Miami counters with Pablo Lopez (5-4, 3.61 in 2020).