Wilmer Font captures first career win as Rays blank Yanks

Shutout gives Rays series win

Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees met up with Wilmer Font of the Tampa Bay Rays in this mid-June clash between division rivals. Since the Yankees acquired Sonny Gray on July 31st 2017, his earned run average on the road is 2.93, good for 7th lowest in the American League. The Saturday showdown was nearly sold out with only tiny splotches of blue representing empty seats in the Rays 4-0 win.

The Font Experiment

The Tampa Bay Rays elected to start Wilmer Font in this high energy game. Font is a former top-prospect who flamed out in the Rangers and Reds organizations. He kept working at it and put together a solid season in the Canadian Amateur league. The Rays took a flyer on him, and at this point in his career, the team is hoping to make him a starting pitcher once again. This is the 2nd time the Yankees lineup has been matched up with the 28-year old journeyman in the past week. Early on Font set the tone with a smooth first inning and followed that by navigating around a lead-off double by cleanup hitter Giancarlo Stanton. On a day where the Rays needed innings out of their starter to reserve the bullpen, the right-hander gave them everything and more. He lasted 52/3 innings, surrendering only 3 hits, walked one and struck out four while notching the first win of his big-league career. His pitch count was high through the first three innings, as he was effectively wild and kept the mighty bombers off-balance. He settled down as the game went on and the ability to command his slurve in any count was superb. The left-handed Johnny Venters would replace him and give up an infield single only to be replaced by the flame-throwing Ryne Stanek. He would quiet a Yankees threat in the 6th by sitting down Stanton on strikes. The Yankees could only muster a walk in an inning and a third of work for the explosive relief pitcher. Chaz Roe would keep the Yankees at bay with a clean 8th inning and Sergio Romo sent Yankees fans home unhappy to secure the victory.

Stanton is Cooking

Giancarlo Stanton has always been a slow starter. His first season in the pressure packed New York market has been no different. Stanton’s swing is one of the most powerful in the game but it is also one of the longest. This long bat path means there is a higher probability for kinks in his swing. It takes him longer than the average player to fully get his timing down. As the summer heats up, so does Stanton. During the last homestand he went 3-12 with two homeruns, including a walk-off in the series finale. In this game, Stanton hit an absolute missile to the opposite field in his first at-bat of the ball game. This is a great sign for Stanton as he is most dangerous when he uses the whole field. He finished the game 1-4 with a 2B as the Yankees were blanked.

Rays Offensive Depth

Sonny Gray continued with his inconsistencies in this contest. He was around the plate too often against a pesky Rays lineup and his final line was: 6 and 2/3 innings, 4 runs on 6 hits, 1 walk and struck out 7. The Yankees starter got into trouble early, allowing a Kevin Kiermaier single to lead off the game. After a Matt Duffy punch out, Jake Bauers would drive the Outlaw in with an RBI double out of the three-hole to get the scoring started. Gray’s slow start would continue in the second inning as CJ Cron jumped all over him with a leadoff double. Next up was Daniel Robertson, who has started to make a name for himself with his versatile, top-level glove and athleticism at third base, second base, and shortstop and potentially left field later this season. His bat has also made vast improvements from a season ago, and it showed early as DRob lined a double off of the left-field wall to drive in CJ Cron.  Willy Adames kept the pressure on in that same inning by bringing Robertson in with an RBI single. The young shortstop would later chase Sonny Gray from the game after he retired 15 straight batters, with a beautiful opposite field homer on an 0-2 slider. The Rays future is bright with Bauers and Adames both driving in key runs against an experienced pitcher. All these players would not have been thought of as offensive contributors at the beginning of the season. Yet, it is easy to see the Rays young talent grow and mature as the season goes on.

This influx of young talent has energized the Rays and they are playing much more sound baseball all around. This energy was not only displayed on the field but also in the stadium. During the second inning of this matchup there was a cheer off between Yankees and Rays fans. Following a lead-off double by Stanton, Yankees fans burst into a ‘let’s go Yankees chant’ while the hometown supporters belted out boos to compete. The stadium was about 65-35 in support of Yankee fans. It is not easy to play at home when the opposing team may have more fans but the Rays pulled this one out to capture the first two games of this series.