The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Atlanta Braves 14-5 on Monday night. The rout was spearheaded by an eight-run fourth inning, the Rays’ highest scoring inning in nearly five years.
Fantastic Fourth: The score was tied 1-1 in the fourth inning, but the game unraveled quickly for Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz and his replacement Touki Toussaint. Foltynewicz retired second baseman Brandon Lowe for the first out. The rest of the inning ensued as such:
- Three run home run
- Solo home run
- RBI Single
- Hit by pitch
- Two run triple
- Wild pitch scores runner from third
Despite winning their first series of the year against Toronto, Tampa Bay struggled to find consistent offense. They broke out of that slump in the fourth inning. Hunter Renfroe clobbered a sinker from Foltynewicz to left-centerfield for a three-run home run. Joey Wendle drilled the next pitch, a hanging changeup, out to right field to give the Rays a 5-1 lead. A walk to Willy Adames ended Foltynewicz’s night before the Rays picked up three more baserunners against Toussaint, capped by Brandon Lowe’s two run triple to deep center that gave the Rays an 8-1 lead. Lowe scored on a wild pitch from Toussaint before the inning ended. The Rays hadn’t scored eight runs in an inning since October 4th, 2015. Big offensive innings for Tampa Bay will put fear into opposing teams. The Rays went 69-10 last season when scoring at least. An uptick in offensive production this season will carry them toward pennant contention.
According to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman, Foltynewicz was designated for assignment immediately after the game. In less than a year, he went from being the starter in a winner-take-all playoff game to being off Atlanta’s roster.
Glasnow’s great debut: There was some debate about whether Tyler Glasnow would be fully recovered from his battle with COVID-19 and be effective on the mound in short order. Those worries have been quelled. Glasnow battled shaky command through the first two innings, but was mostly dominant. He tallied nine strikeouts and allowed just one run on one hit, a Dansby Swanson home run, and two walks. When Glasnow found his command, he was untouchable. He made the Braves’ hitters look foolish. Superstar leadoff man Ronald Acuna Jr. was late on several fastballs while All-Star second baseman Ozzie Albies repeatedly whiffed at Glasnow’s curveball. Swanson’s home run was hit off one of the few fastballs that Glasnow left over the plate. Glasnow was dominant, although he didn’t have great command while only throwing 72 pitches across four innings. He will be a Cy Young candidate if he replicates this performance every fifth day.
Lowe leading the charge: Brandon Lowe is on fire. Through four games, Lowe’s slash line is .500/.563/1.000 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with five extra-base hits. The Rays’ lineup is built around platoons, but Lowe has the offensive potential to play everyday. Austin Meadows’ absence offers the Rays slightly less flexibility when creating matchups, so they need potential everyday players like Lowe to step up. So far, Lowe is getting the job done.
Hunting for Homers: After going hitless in the first three games, right fielder Hunter Renfroe powered the Rays to victory by going 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBI. Renfroe may be the team’s most powerful hitter and he will find himself playing every day with more big offensive nights. Perhaps most encouraging is that his damage was done against right-handed pitching. He has performed far worse in his career against right-handers (.919 OPS) as opposed to lefties (.727 OPS). The thought was that Renfroe would be a productive platoon bat against southpaws. He could change narrative on that soon.
Team Effort: Nearly everyone who touched the field tonight for the Rays made an impact. They collected 13 hits, including 7 extra base hits, drew sic walks, and hit five home runs. Renfroe’s two homers were joined by one each from Mike Zunino, Joey Wendle, and Jose Martinez. Every starter reached base at least once and scored at least one run. Seven of the nine starters delivered an RBI and the offense delivered its highest scoring outing since July 12th, 2019.
Aside from a four run sixth inning, fueled by two defensive miscues, the Rays pitching staff was dominant. Glasnow had a great start. Diego Castillo returned from the paternity list to record a perfect fifth inning. Jalen Beeks resided over the hiccup in the sixth, but pitched very well in the following two innings. Jose Alvarado closed the door in the ninth. Altogether, the Rays’ staff collected 19 strikeouts, a franchise record for a nine inning game. The top four hitters in the Braves’ star-studded lineup went 2-for-13 with just one RBI. Atlanta’s best hitters, especially Acuna Jr. and Albies, have struggled to find their timing at the plate so far. The Rays will be victorious in this series if they continue to shut down Atlanta’s All-Stars.
Next: Right-hander Yonny Chirinos (14-10, 3.71 ERA*) squares off against youngster Kyle Wright (0-3, 7.71 ERA*) at 6:40 EST on Tuesday at Tropicana Field before the teams head to Atlanta for two games.
*Stats from 2019