Rays Put an Exclamation Point on Win Over Nationals

11-0 blowout win shows what the Rays could be very soon

Coming into the 2018 season, there was a lot of doom as well as a fair amount of gloom in all talk about the Tampa Bay Rays.  Those who pay close attention to the team may have cautioned that the team is getting ready to win very soon, but the majority of Rays fans struggled to believe that.  With a franchise icon gone and a roster of unproven and in many cases unknown young quantities, the common belief was that the Rays needed at some point this season to prove there is a light at the end of the tunnel; that Tampa Bay could soon compete with the best teams in baseball.

A crucible of a month of June has given the Rays ample opportunity to show that they will soon compete with the likes of the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals, and the current homestand is quickly becoming a demonstration of what could be.  After sweeping the Yankees in a weekend series at Tropicana Field, the Rays kept the momentum going by obliterating the Washington Nationals on Monday night as the Nats’ pitching staff struggled to find home plate.

It was a convincing win for the Rays, a blowout win and a clear sign that maybe, just maybe, Tampa Bay is on the right track.

It was, to say the least, a rough night for Nationals’ starter Gio Gonzalez on Monday.  Gonzalez was flat-out wild in St. Petersburg, walking a batter in the first and four more in a disastrous second inning.  The Rays got their first run on a wild pitch with the bases loaded to score C.J. Cron.  Two batters later, Jake Bauers came home care of a walk to Willy Adames.  The next man up was Kevin Kiermaier, who took the sixth pitch of his at bat over the center field fence for his second career grand slam.  It was, in all, a six run second inning that got the Nationals into their bullpen early, something that could pay more dividends on Tuesday during an early afternoon game.

The cushion was welcome news to Blake Snell, who came into the game with the best home ERA in all of baseball this season.  With the Rays’ bullpen feeling a bit of overload after a long weekend sweep of the New York Yankees, Snell was going to be asked to eat innings regardless, but the comfortable lead made that decision so much easier.

Despite walking the first two batters of the game, Snell was nothing short of an ace Monday night.  He struck out ten of the first seventeen batters he faced, and did not surrender a hit until the seventh inning when the score was 10-0 Rays.  Even with the strikeouts, he managed to keep his pitch count low enough that he could save the bullpen a bit with an extended start.

The Rays played the remaining innings on cruise control.  Jake Bauers came around to score the Rays’ seventh run of the night in the third inning, care of a wild pitch to Kevin Kiermaier.  Wilson Ramos added an eighth Tampa Bay run with a solo homer to left in the fourth.  Two innings later, he took Tim Collins deep to left for a two run shot to make it 10-0.  The final run was singled home by Jake Bauers, who had a career high four hits on the night.

On Tuesday, the Rays wrap up their season series against the Nationals with what has to be one of the earliest ballgames of the 2018 season.  The 12:10 businessman’s special of a start features Nathan Eovaldi for the Rays up against one of the best in the business, Washington ace Max Scherzer.  It’s the Rays’ second matchup against Scherzer this season.  The ace went eight strong innings against Tampa Bay on June 5, giving up two runs and striking out thirteen Rays in the process.

Scherzer will need to be his usual stopper self for the Nationals on Tuesday.  With Gonzalez’ early exit, the Nationals had to dig deep in their bullpen.  Justin Miller threw three innings, Tim Collins picked up two more, and Matt Grace picked up the seventh and eighth innings.  Since Washington’s Cy Young-caliber ace is going to be on the hill, this is less of a concern, but it leaves the starter with little margin for error.

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.