Going into this weekend series, the Rays probably thought they were primed for a good opportunity to help solidify their postseason berth while playing against a sub-.500 team for the second time in as many weeks. But if there’s one thing the Rays likely learned after their recent series in the Motor City, it’s that the Tigers might not have the strongest season numbers, but this is not the same team that limped its way through April.
The Tigers showed that in spades on Sunday’s afternoon game in St. Petersburg as they struck first against the AL-leading Rays, and never looked back.
Wily Peralta was on the mound for the Tigers to start things off, with the Rays sending Shane McClanahan as their starter. In the top of the first the Tigers got a free baserunner with a Grossman walk, and he then successfully got to second on a wild pitch from McClanahan. The Tigers were not able to capitalize on the runner though. In the bottom of the inning Meadows reached on a one-out infield single, but a double-play ended things scoreless.
Haase got a one-out walk in the top of the second but that was it for the Tigers offense. In the bottom of the inning Ji-Man Choi got a leadoff walk, followed by an Arozarena hit-by-pitch. A flyout and double play finished things off with no runs scored.
Harold Castro kicked off the third with an infield single, then advanced to second on a Reyes sacrifice to the pitcher. Still, the Tigers left the inning empty handed. In the bottom of the third Zunino got a single to center, then Lowe grounded into a fielder’s choice. Lowe proceeded to steal second and was initially called out, but a review showed him to be safe. It ended up not mattering as the Rays were unable to score.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, Eric Haase continued to be a sensational addition to the team when he did this:
In the bottom of the fourth Choi got his second walk of the game, and was then erased by Arozarena grounding into a fielder’s choice. Arozarena was then caught stealing second, and the inning ended on the next batter with no runs scored for the Rays.
The Tigers went down 1-2-3 for the first time all game in the fifth, and while the Rays got some action in the bottom of the inning, it didn’t come to anything. Diaz drew a one-out walk, then Zunino reached on an infield single which advanced Diaz to third. Again, he was initially called out, but the review play went the Rays way. With two men aboard they were still unable to get the job done.
In the top of the sixth Miguel Cabrera got a single, then Candelario got a double to deep right, but sadly a slow-moving Cabrera couldn’t turn that into a run, and only got to third. TTBDNS. Old Tigers foe Nelson Cruz got to base in the bottom of the inning on catcher’s interference, but again, the Rays left the inning scoreless.
Tigers catchers getting the job done in this game. With one out in the inning Dustin Garneau collected a solo home run, putting the Tigers up 2-0. The Rays went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh.
Schoop singled to kick off the eighth, but the rest of the side were shutdown in order. Peralta’s day was done after seven solid innings of work, with a final line for the day of 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 0 HR on exactly 100 pitches. Things got a bit too interesting for comfort in the bottom of the eighth, with Holland coming on in relief, Zunino singled for the third time in the game, then with two outs Holland gave way to Foley, and Foley was pretty much “aw hell I don’t want to pitch to Nelson Cruz” and with two wild pitches, Zunino advanced to third, and Cruz was walked. Kiermaier, pinch-running for Cruz, made a dash for second and was tagged out to end the inning.
In the top of the ninth Goodrum got a one-out walk, then stole second, and was able to advance to third on a throwing error from Zunino. Goodrum was then tagged out by the pitcher after misreading some signals and running for home but not returning to third fast enough. Ooops. The Tigers ended the inning still up 2-0, with the Rays down to their last three batters of the game. Kyle Funkhouser was the man for the job, and while he allowed a single to Wendle, the game ended on a looooooong flyout that looked like it might do something off the bat of Yandy Diaz until it was caught by Grossman.
Final: Tigers 2, Rays 0