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Sunday Souza Not Enough, Indians Take Series

Wayne Masut | Senior Staff Photographer

Looking for their third victory on the nine-game home stand, Tampa Bay faced one of baseball’s best pitchers.

The Rays had their ace on the mound yesterday in Chris Archer, today it was Cleveland’s turn. Corey Kluber entered the game with a 2.65 ERA and 183 strikeouts in just 132.2 inning pitched. The only AL pitchers with more strikeouts this season are Archer (197) and Boston’s Chris Sale (229).

The Rays countered with Austin Pruitt, looking for his seventh win of the season.

Kluber elevated his ERA today but he gave the Indians a solid outing. Despite giving up three runs, his seven innings, four hits, and nine strikeouts were enough to earn him his 11th win of the season. He’s now 8-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 14 starts since returning from the DL on June 1.

Austin Jackson was the difference in this game. His solo home run off Tommy Hunter in the eighth inning set the stage for Cody Allen to pick up his 21st save of the season.

Settling for Singles

In the third inning today the Rays picked up back-to-back hits against Kluber. Dating back to August 4, the Rays have done this only three times. Each of the those occurrences were the result of consecutive singles.

You have to go back to August 1 (2B and 3B) to find an instance of back-to-back hits where either of them was an XBH. Also on that day, Tampa Bay recorded three hits in the first inning. Something that, until today, was absent from the box score.

Longoria Gives Rays Early Lead

Back in the lineup after taking yesterday off to rest his injured left wrist, Evan Longoria appeared to wince as he fouled off the first pitch he saw today. The third-baseman stepped out of the batters box shaking his hand after a Kluber fastball rode in on him. Any inside pitch will cause some discomfort when you foul it off but just two days after taking a liner off the left hand, it is something to keep an eye on.

In his next plate appearance Longoria put the Rays on the board.

After singles by Jesus Sucre and Corey Dickerson put runners on first and second with two outs, Longoria’s single to left field gave the Rays a 1-0 lead.

Leads have not been customary on the home-stand. The Rays have recorded only five defensive outs while leading their opponent. They lead for the final three outs on Friday night and for only two outs this afternoon. The only other lead was when Steven Souza belted his first career walk-off home run last Sunday.

Super-Souza Sunday

After Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana smacked back-to-back doubles in the fourth inning, giving Cleveland the lead, Edwin Encarnacion provide a little more thump with a 426-foot solo blast in the sixth.

Given the offensive trend, coupled with Kluber’s performance, the two-run deficit seemed like a tall task.

Souza accepted the challenge in the home-half of the sixth.

After Longoria walked, Souza worked Kluber to a full count before belting his team-leading 25th home run of the season.

“I knew he wasn’t going to make it easy on me,” Souza said of Kluber. “He just hung a slider there and I didn’t try to do too much – you never try to do too much with a guy like that.”

The 420-foot shot brought life back into the crowd – but he wasn’t done there.

With two-outs and Santana, the go-ahead run, on second base, Souza preserved the tie ball game when Indians’ shortstop Francisco Lindor lined a single to right.

Rehabbing Rays

Both Kevin Kiermaier (right hip fracture) and Matt Andriese (right hip stress reaction) are working their way back from injury. Returning to rehab action yesterday, Kiermaier went 0-for-4 with a run scored as the DH for High-A Charlotte. He was back in action today going 1-for-3 with an RBI-triple, again in the DH spot.

Making his first rehab appearance since the injury on June 10, Andriese pitched into the fourth inning allowing two runs on four hits, striking out two. Barring any setbacks, the Rays should benefit from his services before the start of September.

With Alex Cobb currently on the 10-day DL, and Jake Odorizzi recovering from the line-drive he took off his right ankle on Wednesday, a healthy Andriese is a welcome addition to the Rays rotation.

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