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Rays’ offense erupts, keeps series alive against Astros

Photo by Eric Evans | The Scrum Sports

The Trop erupts thanks to Kiermeier’s 3-run homer in the bottom of the second inning, keeping the Rays’ season going for at least one more game.

ST. PETERSBURG — After two games in Houston facing – most likely – the AL Cy Young winner and Cy Young runner up – Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole – today was a game in which the Tampa Bay Rays had to win.

Charlie Morton labored early in the game against this loaded Houston Astros lineup. Morton threw 31 first inning pitches, including one that Jose Altuve hit 423 feet over the center field fence.

A pretty mild early inning crowd got very quiet.

The Rays went 1-2-3 in the first on nine Zack Greinke pitches. Not the ideal start the Rays were looking for.

Morton improved in the second, striking out two Astros and only throwing 21 pitches. But that was not the story of the inning. Avisail Garcia got the offense going with a one out single and while running to first he looked in the dugout, clapped his hand and got the boys fired up.

It’s been rough in the early innings of this series, so any little signs of offense is encouraging. Boy, was that true today.

With Garcia now on second after a Brandon Lowe ground out, Travis d’Arnaud took a pitch of the elbow – giving the Rays runners on first and second with Kevin Kiermaier coming up.

The Trop Erupts

On a 2-1 pitch, Kiermaier blasted a Greinke changeup into the right-center field bleachers putting life into Tropicana Field that I was unsure existed. It was Kiemarier’s first homer of the postseason and gave the Rays a 3-1 lead. A lead they never gave back.

“It’s up there,” Kiermarier said when asked where that home run ranked for him. ” First postseason even at the Trop. Felt great. The after my homer, you saw Ji-Man, Willy and Brandon Lowe, that’s kind of how it’s been this season.”

Charlie Freakin’ Morton

Morton didn’t have his best stuff today, but like the wildcard game in Oakland, he battle through five innings and put this team in a position to win the game.

“Outstanding,” manager Kevin Cash said after the game when asked about Morton’s performance. “Certainly we weren’t expecting that after that first two innings, he had 50-plus pitches. They had good at-bats, but take away the Altuve homer run and them putting pressure on him, he still got his strikeouts. But similar to the Oakland start, really turned it up when he had to and got efficient for us.”

Morton was asked about his outing after the game. ” I mean, after the first inning, 40-some pitches, I think. After the second inning, it was 60 something pitches. So that homer by KK, I mean, that was huge because bought us a little bit of wiggle room with them. When you’re pitching in the postseason, you’re kind of fighting – you’re fighting emotions, you’re fighting, like, you’re pretty energetic physically, a lot of times. The key is to find balance. I think I got to that spot a little bit later there, where it was like I was still pretty amped up and I was still pretty emotional. That might actually play a part in a good way.”

Morton’s finished today with nine strikeouts in his five innings allowing three hits, including the Altuve home run. His nine strikeouts tied a franchise record set by Matt Garza, who did so in game seven against the Boston Red Sox in the 2008 ALCS.

Dinger Derby

The Rays matched a postseason record with four home runs in the game.

Ji-Man Choi added the second home run for the Rays, a solo shot in the third inning. The homer was Choi’s first hit in the ALDS.

Brandon Lowe started the scoring in a four-run fourth inning with a solo home run. That homer was followed by a Willy Adams walk, a Matt Duffy single, an Austin Meadows two-run double and a Tommy Pham RBI single.

Adames big game

In the sixth inning, Adames led off with a solo home run. He finished the game going 3-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Each of his three hits had an exit velocity of 103+ mph.

“You know I was that to carry over to tomorrow,” Adames said when I asked him about barrelling up the ball so well today. “I want to hit everything like that. But like I said, we were just trying t concentrate to swinging at strikes because we were swinging at a lot of balls there [Houston]. We were making the job easy for the pitchers.”

Up Next

Game 4 of the ALDS features the Rays Diego Castillo (0-0; 0.00) taking on Justin Verlander (1-0; 0.00). Castillo has thrown 3.2 scoreless innings this postseason striking out four. Verlander went seven one hit innings in game one.

Start time will either be 4:15 PM or 7:07 PM pending the outcome of the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins game.

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