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Game 140 // Sixth Inning // The Rays Take First Place

A good old fashioned singles parade.

And this little Rays team that could, vaulting into first place in the AL East.




They’re down 4-0 here in the bottom of the sixth, The Trop enjoying the buzz of a respectably half-full crowd, as their best season since the Joe Maddon era enters the reality check portion of the year—when the upstart sapling of a hot start gets undermined by moles, gophers, an excavator. Wilting its way into the All-Star break.

But not tonight. And not the Rays.


With Austin Meadows up against Andrew Heaney.

Leading off the inning with a double down the line to right.





Heaney is pulled, relieved by Luis Garcia coming in from the bullpen.

And Yandy Díaz comes up, driving a single up the middle.

4-1 now.





Ji-Man Choi comes on to pinch hit. And he, too, lines a single to center.

Two on, still no out.

Then Brandon Lowe strikes out, on a nasty splitter.

And Joey Wendle flies out to right-center.

Not the makings of any kind of big inning.


But up comes Kevin Kiermaier.

And he does this.




Another 0-2 count. Another single. Rays behind by just two runs now.

Garcia is pulled. Buttrey comes in out of the bullpen.

Guillermo Heredia gets stuck in another 0-2 count, and…

He’s hit. Badly. A 98-mph fastball plum onto the hand.


“Well this doesn’t look good at all,” says Dewayne Staats, on the Rays broadcast.





Travis D’Arnaud comes on to run for him. Rays still down two. 

And then, Avisail Garcia sees a hard fastball over the plate from Buttrey. Reacts with an inside-out swing trying only to make contact, lifts it to shallow right center—and it drops. Two runs score.


Tie game, 4-4.





Then, the final piece of the rally:

Tommy Pham.


The ninth hitter of the inning. A 3-1 count, and he lines a high and inside fastball the opposite way for another single.

Rays lead, 5-4.


And the Trop comes alive—as alive as it can get, really—with the sound of a few hundred cowbells, clanging at once.





The next inning? They scored four.

Winning it 9-4 in the end.


And the Yankees? Who seemed like a took-first-place-and-never-looking-back kind of team?

Fell 10-2 to the White Sox, as young Eloy Jimenez hit two three-run homers.





And so these Rays, at least for a day, vault back into first.

Completely improbable, as it always seems with them—the Red Sox and Yankees never looming at all times.





But there’s a reason they’re there. And reason to think they’ll stay.

Just look at the run differentials:


Rays +98

Yankees +61

Red Sox +42



So what do you do, when the Rays are having a season like this?

With this big of an inning, in this big of a division?


You get out your Tropicana.

And you love the taste of first place in the morning.






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