Souza smashes walk-off home run as Rays finally win

by Gary Shelton on August 7, 2017 · 4 comments

in Baseball, general, Tampa Bay Rays

Souza Jr. celebrates after his walk-off hoe./STEVEN MUNCIE

Souza Jr. celebrates after his walk-off home run./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 2 a.m.

Steven Souza Jr. had two hits for the Rays./STEVEN MUNCIE

Steven Souza Jr. had two hits for the Rays./STEVEN MUNCIE

The RBI was three days in the making. But the moment took three years to develop.

Steven Souza Jr., the unpredictable one, slammed a home run to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, providing the Rays with a walk-off win, 2-1, over the Milwaukee Brewers. It was only the second run, and the first RBI, the Rays compiled over the series.

The Rays had gone more than two years longer than any other team in baseball since winning with a walk-off home run.  In between walk-off homers, the Rays played 277 home games, won 14 of those games in some other walk-off fashion, hit 289 HR at Tropicana Field and allowed 13 walk-off homers on the road.

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Chris Archer gave the Rays another quality start../STEVEN MUNCIE

Chris Archer gave the Rays another quality start../STEVEN MUNCIE

For the moment, however, it felt as if the Rays had accomplished something, even considering the shutouts the team had suffered over the first two games of the series. Chris Archer, like Jacob Faria and Alex Cobb before him, threw six innings of one-run baseball. He allowed only three hits.

Think about it. Three days, 18 innings, 12 hits and three runs. And all the Rays got out of it was two losses and a no-decision.

Souza's homer changed all of this. It was his 24th homer of the season — all against right-handed pitching — and his 69th RBI.

Corey Dickerson's  average fell to .296 for the season. ./STEVEN MUNCIE

Corey Dickerson's average fell to .296 for the season./STEVEN MUNCIE

Rays manager Kevin Cash was asked how he envisioned the ninth playing out.

“With a Souza home run,” he said. “We weren't piecing anything together. It was going to take someone to leave the ballpark.”

That someone was Souza, who gave the team its first walkoff homer in more than three years (May of 14 when ex-Ray Sean Rodriguez homered to beat Oakland).

“I mean, I think we were just trying to piece together some hits,” Souza said. “If our skipper can call a home run like that, I mean he should probably buy a Lotto ticket. We’re just trying to piece together some good at bats. Unfortunately this series we just couldn’t get that big knock, but it was great right there to come through.

“I’ll tell you what, it’s a lot of fun to celebrate a walk-off home run.”

The Rays struggled to score the entire series. They extended their scoreless streak to 21 before a run came home in the second when Wilson Ramos hit into a double play, allowing Logan Morrison to score. The Rays then threw up six more zeroes before Souza's homer.

This time, however, the Rays' bullpen was equal to the tast. They threw three innings and Tommy Hunter got the win.

Evan Longoria reacts after getting hit by a pitch./STEVEN MUNCIE

Evan Longoria reacts after getting hit by a pitch./STEVEN MUNCIE

In the Rays' last six wins, the bullpen has thrown 20.2 scoreless innings (nine hits and 15 strikeouts. Steve Cishek hasn't allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings over five appearnces since he was acquired.

It's the starting pitching that's on tear, however. Archer struck out seven, giving up a hit to only Orlando Arcia.

“That was fun, and needed,” Cash said. “It was getting exhausting there. My gosh, I was about to fall asleep the past three days. Credit our pitchers. An outstanding job. All three of our starters did everything they could to keep us in the ballgame. I know we came up short and only won the final game, but the final game meant a lot to us. Their pitchers, that might have been the best run of starting pitching and relief that we’ve seen all year consecutively.”

Archer likes what he sees out of the Rays.

“In order for us to do what we want to do, we have to click on all cylinders,” Archer said. “Some things that go unnoticed, Hechy making some great plays. Corey Dickerson picked me up big time because that would have been a run scored. Our catchers are busting their butts back there, blocking and hitting hammered. Wilson catching every day after that surgery, he’s muscling up and is huge back there. We have to click on all cylinders. With our starting pitching the way it is, we are looking pretty good.”

Said Hunter: “That’s a pretty big win for us. Hopefully it’s a catalyst, snowball effect and hopefully we (get) on a (roll).”

The Rays get a day off today, then welcome the Boston Red Sox to town Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. Austin Pruitt pitches for the Rays against Chris Sale.

Steve Cishek had another scoreless appearance../STEVEN MUNCIE

Steve Cishek had another scoreless appearance../STEVEN MUNCIE

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill MYERS August 7, 2017 at 9:10 am

How long before Sousa goes the way of Beckham?

Reply

Gary Shelton August 7, 2017 at 9:45 am

It won’t happen this year. souza is on an affordable contract (roughly $546,000). But he’ll get a big boost in arbitration next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. So you’re right to be concerned. I think the Rays will be fine his first year, but the second year, they’ll have to juggle some things.

Souza is a flaky player, and odds say he’ll dive in right field over a popup hit to third. But he’s a powerful bat.

Reply

Bill MYERS August 8, 2017 at 9:20 am

Flaky is a great description!

Reply

Gary Shelton August 8, 2017 at 9:22 am

As a card-carrying member of the Flakes Union, I recognize one when I see it.

Reply

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