Two-strike hitting lifts Rays past Jays

by Gary Shelton on May 14, 2022

in general

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Give the Rays credit for this: Even in the best of times, the Tampa Bay Rays know a lot about strike three.

Their hitters were eighth in the major leagues in strikeouts Friday, and that was before the team had nine in their game against Toronto.

Ah, but for once, that third strike was the tricky one, wasn't it?

The Rays knocked in all five of their runs on two-strike counts, leading to the team's 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays. It led to the Rays' 20th win (against 13 losses) of the season.

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Talk about tough at-bats? Consider this:

-- In the second inning, Ji-Man Choi drove in Brandon Lowe on a fielder's choice on a 2-2 pitch. Lowe had reached base when the Blue Jays misplayed his fly ball into a triple, one of two triples he had on the night.

-- In the sixth inning, Mike Zunino hit a 0-2 pitch to deep left for a single. It was one of two balls Zunino hit that were inches from going out of the park.

-- After the Jays tied the game in the eighth, sizzling-hot hitter Manny Margot singled a 1-2 pitch into left field to drive in the go-ahead run.

-- Later in the inning, Francisco Mejia singled on a 0-2 to drive in Tyler Walls.

-- One batter later, Lowe tripled to right-center on an 0-2 pitch to drive in Mejia.

In other words, no one needed to take the last strike from the Rays' hitters.

In the Rays' last nine games, Margot is 15-30 with 13 RBI. This was his latest clutch effort.

“He did come up clutch," said manager Kevin Cash. "He’s not feeling 100 percent. Tha ’s why he’s DHing and not playing in the outfield where he’s so good defensively. We felt like if he was good enough that he could go up there and manage how quickly he came out of the box, we could still benefit from him. He was the right guy in the right spot to come through for us."

The Rays got a solid start from Drew Rasmusen. The Rays have won four of his five starts.

Rasmussen went 5 2/3 innings, allowing only three hits (two in his last inning) and one earned run. The bullpen was mostly solid aside from Brooks Raley, who gave up three hits and the tying run without getting anyone out.

"He was good," Cash said. "He made quality pitches. At times he looked like a ground ball pitcher, which I don’t think he is, but he was making good enough pitches."

Rasmussen thought his cutter was a key pitch.

"It’s a pitch that creates weak contact, so we’ve got a lot of confidence in it," Rasmussen said. "The ability to throw it in the strike zone has helped me out over the last couple of outings. We knew they were going to be aggressive. It’s something a little different than the four seam. It was something we figured if we can get ahead we can go to and create weak contact."

Reliever Andrew Kittredge bounced back after giving up homers in his last two appearances. Kittredge had a perfect eighth.

“He bounces right back," Cash said. "He's the same guy making the same pitch. He has a very short-term memory that you’d like most relievers to have. He's about as dependable as they come."

The Rays and Jays will play the second game of their series tonight at 6:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field. The Rays have not announced their starting pitcher, but Hyun Jin Ryu will start for the Jays.

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