Kittredge’s great escape leads Rays win

by Gary Shelton on August 1, 2021

in general

Kittredge collected his eighth win./JEFFREY S. KING

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Long before it was a blow out, long before it was about celebrating first place, long before it was a signature win, it was merely about a man in trouble.

Andrew Kittredge was in a world of hurt, if you want the truth of it. He stood on the mound in the sixth inning of a 5-5 game, alone with a ball in his hand. There was one out, and the bases were loaded, and the count was 3-0 on Christian Vazquez.

And Kittredge came back to strike him out.

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Which, of course, brought him to Bobby Dalbec.

He struck him out, too.

Kittredge's great escape wasn't in solitude, however. The next inning, reliever Matt Wisler was ahead 6-5, and again the Red Sox had loaded the bases, and Wisler was behind 3-1. And he came back to strike Hunter Renfroe out.

And that's what separates first place from the rest of the pack.

The Rays would go on to win, 9-5, and to take over the AL East by a half-game. But it was those two moments, those two refusals to give into the moment, that the Rays should remember. Even more than another comeback win, even more than another late-inning offensive explosion, even more than the small town of Bani in the Dominican Republic.

Bani, if you dind't know, is where catcher Francisco Mejia and shortstop Wander Franco both come from. Together, they drove in six of the Rays' runs against Boston. Mejia had four of them.

Ji-Man Choi also had a homer for the Rays.

The Rays' bullpen pitched four innings and gave up no runs. The Rays bullpen has pitched to a 1.34 ERA in the last 20 games and a majors-best 3.03 ERA overall.

“Those guys are really special," said manager Kevin Cash. "They're doing some good things for us. You knew coming into this series that Boston was going to have so many disciplined at bats. They're not going to help you get ahead of guys."

The Rays are in first place alone for the first time since June 26. It's the first time they've been first after 100 games since 2013.

Franco is batting .286 with six extra base hits and seven RBI in 14 games since the All-Star break

"He’s really talented," Cash said. "A special player. He's doing things at age 20, which is mind-boggling to me. I don’t know that he’s ever hit .250 anywhere he's been. He’s kept his head above water and now he’s getting hot."

The Rays go for a sweep against the Red Sox today at Tropicana Field. Shane McClanahan will start for the Rays against Nick Pivetta at 7:08 p.m.

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