Strikeouts and Another Fourth Inning Rally Give Rays the Sweep

Rays sweep Angels, pass them in standings

The Tampa Bay Rays might be on the very edge of the early race for the second Wild Card, and it may be unlikely, but the Rays have not been ruled out from that position.  Tampa Bay completed a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels care of Jalen Beeks’ first Major League victory and another strong fourth inning from the Rays’ lineup.

Once again, the Rays did damage in the fourth inning.  That frame has been kind to the Rays this week.  They scored fourteen runs in the fourth over the three game set with the Angels, starting with the seven run explosion on Tuesday night.

For much of the season, the Rays have had to pitch out of their minds just to keep games close, with a young lineup still finding its way.  This week, the Rays have shown flashes of what their 1-9 can really look like when it’s clicking.  Thursday, the runs came care of an old-fashioned rally.  No home runs, not even any extra base hits, but the Rays worked starter Andrew Heaney, taking advantage of just about every hittable pitch the lefty threw to them in the fourth.

Los Angeles made it close in the seventh, getting the first two hits of the afternoon off long reliever Jalen Beeks, both of whom would come around to score and make the score 4-2 in favor of Tampa Bay.  From there, it was up to the more traditional end of the Tampa Bay bullpen, as Diego Castillo took the eighth and Sergio Romo the ninth to finish off the win and the sweep of the Angels.

The Angels came into Thursday afternoon’s game with a getaway day lineup, but a sigh of relief as well.  Mike Trout jammed his wrist on Wednesday night on a slide into second base.  That was enough to raise alarms with the Angels, who sent the superstar center fielder to an MRI and an X-Ray.  Both turned out to be negative, and Trout should not miss much time.  Still, out of an abundance of caution the Angels may continue to hold Trout out of their lineup for a few days to make sure everything is alright.

Opener continues to pay dividends for Rays

Hunter Wood got the ball in the first inning for Tampa Bay, and the opener did not disappoint on Thursday afternoon.  Wood threw two innings, allowing just one hit while striking out five.  This included a second inning in which he struck out the side.

One of the tasks of this new opener role is to set the tone for a game.  Relievers, who are often said to have “reliever stuff,” can get a team started on the right foot with some strikeouts and a quick inning or two.  Wood did just that on Thursday afternoon at Tropicana Field, This allowed Jalen Beeks, who had a rough appearance in his first outing as a member of the Rays, to enter the game against the bottom of the Angels’ lineup as opposed to the meat of the order.

Beeks looked much sharper at home against the Angels than he did on the road in Baltimore last weekend.  He pitched in true getaway day fashion, trying to get the Angels to their plane on time with quick and efficient innings.  The lefty, acquired for Nathan Eovaldi in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, was Boston’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2017 and showed his ability on Thursday.  Beeks did not surrender a hit in his first four innings of work, cementing the Rays’ lead and running the Angels lower and lower on outs remaining.

In all, Jalen Beeks tossed five innings, giving up just two hits and two runs in the process.  He left in line for the win after four strikeouts and 70 pitches.  The five innings were a career high, and the win his first in the big leagues.

Pham leaves after errant pitch

Newly-acquired outfielder Tommy Pham was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning on Thursday afternoon, a slider that caught Pham in his right foot.  Trainers looked him over, and Pham stayed in the game to run the bases.  He played in left field for another inning, as well as taking another at bat where he flew out to center field, but in the seventh he was pulled for Mallex Smith.

Pham’s injury was diagnosed as a right foot contusion.  He had x-rays, which were negative.  He should not be out long.

What’s next for Rays

The Rays’ nine game homestand continues over the weekend, as the Chicago White Sox come to the building originally intended to lure them out of Chicago.  It will be a celebratory weekend for the Rays, as they hold the 10 year anniversary of the 2008 American League pennant winners.  Appropriately enough, they will do so against the first organization they ever faced in the postseason.

While James Shields is not coming down specifically to take part in the celebration.  “Big Game James” will be in the building as Sunday’s scheduled starter for the southsiders.  His opponent is that Rays’ mainstay:  TBD.  The weekend is likely to see the return of Rays’ ace Blake Snell to the Tropicana Field mound, though that is still up in the air to some degree.

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.