CHICAGO – With rain forecast all night on yet another chilly day in the Windy City, the Rays were as prepared to face the elements as the Cubs were on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Even with the game kicking off by just over an hour, no one knew how long they would be able to play before the rain washed them off the field. This made it extremely important to start fast and take the lead before the game became official after five innings.
As manager Kevin Cash said, the Rays’ goal was to “get races and then get past the fifth inning”.
The Rays did just that in their 8-2 win over the Cubs. They jumped on Cubs starter Marcus Stroman in a four-race first inning. They followed up on another run in the second and three more in the fifth. And they went through 5 1/2 innings, playing in steady rain for most of the series finale, before the field team finally rolled out the canvas two hours and seven minutes after Stroman’s first pitch.
About an hour later, the game was officially announced and the Rays ended their week-long stay in Chicago with their first straight wins since the season opener against the Orioles.
“I think this is what we needed,” said catcher Francisco Mejía, who made three runs on a homer in the first inning and a double in the fifth inning, through interpreter Manny Navarro. “We needed to come here and win a few games and win the series.”
The Rays still haven’t found their balance, even though they’ve won three of their last four games after losing five of their previous six games. Two weeks into the season, they’re 7-6 with a handful of batters still battling on the plate, a bunch of key pitchers on the injury list, and an unusual number of base and field errors so far.
But they looked much more like the team they hope to be during the final two days of the 13-game 13-day season-opening season, the longest scheduled period without a day off to start a season in franchise history. And they were excited to come home after six days of cold and rain – and, at one point, snow – baseball in Chicago.
“We’re slowly but surely pinning the guys down, and I said the other day we haven’t even caught our pace yet,” said center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who doubled left in fifth to drive in the Rays’ final race. . “We’re definitely not playing our best baseball right now. … But we showed up to play. We had some tough games that we lost there against the White Sox and even the first game here, but we ended it right. It will be a good flight home, and we will all be excited to drive to The Trop on Friday for sure.”
Ideally, the Rays will pick up where they left off on the board on Tuesday and Wednesday. After scoring three runs or fewer in five of the last six games, Tampa Bay had six runs on Tuesday and racked up eight runs in nine hits on Wednesday. And the Rays beat the Cubs in many ways in the series finale.
“We think we’re built in a way that we should be able to put races on the board. We have a versatile formation, a very deep formation”, said Cash. “Depending on the pitching prowess and the clashes, we feel like we can put a lot of pressure on pitchers – and today was a good example of that.”
In the first round, Brandon Lowe worked the start and scored in a double that Randy Arozarena crushed between the legs of third baseman Jonathan Villar. Arozarena then stole third base and ran home as receiver Yan Gomes’ pitch went to left field. Ji-Man Choi walked before Mejía crushed a two-out, two-run home run to center left, continuing his impressive streak and giving the Rays the quick lead they knew they needed.
“We are a very good batting group. Just kind of feeding each other everybody’s energy when you go down to base,” said field rookie Josh Lowe. “Crash is contagious, and we are ready to keep it going.”
Shortstop Wander Franco continued his torrid start to the season in the second, pulling a double RBI from Stroman that capped his 9-22 trip. Arozarena missed to drop the fifth and scored on Josh Lowe’s triple to the right, then Mejía entered Lowe with a left double that ended Stroman’s exit and sent the Rays home on a high.
“We needed to play better baseball [after] the way it started. Happy with the way the guys recovered, very encouraged by that,” Cash said. “I know the game was stopped, but saying that, we did a lot of good things early on with Stroman, who is a talented pitcher. We didn’t give in, we had good hits, and then we had some really timely hits. ”