Rays Rough Up Porcello, Avoid Sweep Against Boston

Rays chase Red Sox’ starter while Snell has another solid start

Denard Span just wanted some nachos.

Twice on Thursday night, in the Tampa Bay Rays’ 6-3 win over the Boston Red Sox, Span chased down a foul ball and went over the short wall, falling into the 162 Landing.  He didn’t catch the ball either time, but the first time he landed on a fan and his beer.  The second time, he had to be helped up by Raymond.

On his way into the clubhouse after a night of bruises, one in which he went 2-3 with two walks and three runs scored, he joked to reporters that he was “just trying to get some nachos.”  Span’s effort on the foul balls was remarkable, and underlined what it took for the Rays to avoid the sweep against Boston and take the third game of the three game set with the Red Sox.

It was a rough beginning for Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, who simply did not have his best stuff at Tropicana Field on Thursday night, which combined with some bad luck and some sharp Rays hitting to make for a long night for Boston’s bullpen.  Porcello threw 33 pitches in the first, surrendering one earned run and an unearned run.  In the second, he threw 30 more pitches, gave up two more earned runs, and another unearned run.  By the time Porcello came out of the dugout for the third inning, he had thrown 63 pitches and the Rays led 5-0.  In all, Rick Porcello went 3.2 innings, surrendering six runs, four of which were earned and scattered across eight hits.  The 2016 Cy Young Award winner had been playing much better this season after a step backward in 2017, but the Rays had him sized up on Thursday night.

This allowed Blake Snell to relax and get to business, Snell retained the form he has found this season, looking sharp in the early innings to cement that opening Rays lead.  He struck out six batters in the first four innings, and wound up going six innings, striking out eight, giving up three hits, and allowing a grand total of zero runners to cross the plate.  It was the kind of sharp performance that stops potential sweeps dead in their tracks, suggesting that Snell is well on his way to becoming that “stopper” people like to talk about.

For the Rays’ lineup, it was a night of manufactured runs, with only one extra base hit all night, a leadoff double by Denard Span.  After that, the Rays got it done with walks, singles, infield singles, and Red Sox miscues.  Span scored three runs on the night, the third being set up by a steal of second base.  Had Matt Duffy not run into an out at home the Rays would have had a seventh player cross home plate.  That which used to be called “small ball” served Tampa Bay well.

In an expected move, the Rays optioned Willy Adames back to AAA Durham after Thursday night’s game as they reinstated Joey Wendle from the paternity list.  Adames was 1-4 on Thursday night, and in all had two hits in his first Major League series including Tuesday night’s home run.  The official numbers say he hit just .167 for the series, but that short MLB experience is critical to Adames’ development as he learns the difference between minor league pitching and major league pitching.

The win moves the Tampa Bay Rays to 23-25, and a sweep over the weekend against the last-place Baltimore Orioles would put them above the .500 mark in late May.

The Rays stay home for the weekend, with the Baltimore Orioles coming to town for a three game set.  Friday is set to be a bullpen day.  More than that, this weekend is scheduled to be a bullpen weekend, with no starting pitchers scheduled in any of the three games against Baltimore.

The “opener” on Friday night will be Sergio Romo, and the same will be true on Sunday.  Putting him in that position over the weekend seems like it may become a somewhat common thing, as he had the first inning on Saturday and Sunday of last week against the Angels.  This is the newest extension of the Rays’ “bullpen day” experiment, and their results are encouraging enough that the idea has caught on.

On Thursday afternoon, facing no less an established ace than Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners, the Oakland Athletics decided to have a bullpen day.  Josh Lucas took the first two innings before turning the ball over to his bullpen associates, and the Athletics took a 4-3 win over the Mariners in a loaded AL West that has four teams above .500 at the moment.

Romo nearly pitched Thursday, warming up in the bullpen briefly before being sat back down, but according to manager Kevin Cash it would not have impacted his start on Friday night.

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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.