Rays 7, Tigers 0: Matt Manning was really good; Gregory Soto was not

Bless You Boys

A really well pitched game on both sides for eight innings was spoiled by a total collapse from Gregory Soto in the ninth that turned a scoreless game into a complete rout for the Rays as they took the four-game set with an 7-0 victory on Sunday.

Matt Manning led the way for the Tigers, making his second start since returning from a lengthy IL stint. He was excellent in this one, producing the best start of his nascent major league career.

In the first he got Yandy Diaz to fly out to left, but then walked Brandon Lowe. Frankly, walking Lowe seems like a reasonable strategy after the damage he’s done in the series. Manning bounced back to get Randy Arozarena on a fly ball, and then punched out Ji-Man Choi on three straight fastballs well located in the upper quadrant away on the edge. In the second, he again issued a walk, this time to Francisco Mejia with two outs, but locked up Jose Siri with a slider at the bottom of the zone to end the inning.

The Tigers meanwhile weren’t getting anywhere against the Rays’ Drew Rasmussen, going down in order through the first six hitters.

Manning came right back with a 1-2-3 inning in the third, freezing Yandy Diaz with a 95 mph fastball for strike three, and getting Y Chang and Brandon Lowe on ground outs. After sitting in the low-90’s early on, it was good to see Manning ramp it up when required.

As for Drew Rasmussen, he was tough on the Tigers as well. Kody Clemens and Tucker Barnhart struck out in the bottom of the third. Akil Baddoo reached on a ground ball that clanged off the glove of second baseman Isaac Paredes, but was then cut down trying to steal second as Chang appeared to block Baddoo’s lead foot off the base.

Manning got another pair of quick outs to open the fourth, but Paredes flared a little single to shallow left center. Luke Raley pulled a flare into right center that Riley Greene couldn’t quite get to, and it was runners on first and third with two outs. No matter, as Manning popped Meija up on the infield and Javy Báez squeezed it to end the inning.

The Tigers finally mounted the best threat of the day from either team when Riley Greene led off the bottom half by pulling a double into the right field corner against lefty Jalen Beeks, who replaced Rasmussen after three good frames. Greene had been irritated with himself for getting caught in between on Raley’s flare the previous half inning, and took it out on the baseball here. The rookie then dodged a routine ground ball from Willi Castro to shortstop and was able to reach third. However, on a weak chopper from Báez with the infield pulled in, Chang was able to scoop it and fired a quick strike to home to nail Greene trying to score. Harold Castro flew out to left, and the Tigers were turned away.

Manning opened the fifth by striking out Jose Siri swinging over a slider. Chang singled to left, but Diaz flew out, and Lowe swung and missed for strike three on a Manning sinker to turn them away. Manning had five strikeouts, allowing just three hits and two walks through five.

The Rays and their ever subtle strategery turned to Brooks Raley to hand the fifth. He got a pair of quick outs from Candelario and Schoop, but Kody Clemens doubled to left to produce a two-out threat. However, it was Barnhart up next and he grounded out to squander the chance.

Manning opened the sixth a bit out of whack as he walked Arozarena on four straight pitches. However, the Rays’ left fielder was erased on a nice throw and tag from Barnhart to Báez to cut him down. Ji-Man Choi was at the dish, and he whiffed on a fastball, a changeup down and away, and finally a curveball down to strike out. Paredes lifted a fly ball to Baddoo in left, and Manning had six scoreless frames with six punchies on the day through 82 pitches.

Raley stayed in for the sixth and got Baddoo to ground out to open the bottom half of the sixth. He then struck out Greene on three straight pitches. Willi Castro flew out to center to end the inning.

Manning’s pitch count topped 80 pitches as Luke Raley greeted him with a solid single to open the seventh. Francisco Mejia flew out routinely to Willi Castro in right for the first out. Manning then carved up Jose Siri with two good sliders down and away for whiffs. Tried to get him to expand with another one off the plate, and then froze him with a fastball on the same line that tailed right back into the edge of the zone for strike three. Yu Chang got a first pitch heater down the middle, a rare pitch over the heart of the plate from Manning, and lined it 400 feet to straightaway center into the waiting glove of Riley Greene, completing Manning’s best outing of his career.

7 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 7 SO. Manning got whiffs with his whole arsenal in this one, mixing in some good changeups and curves along the way, and only breaking out mid-90’s heat where needed. Overall he had pretty good command of everything in this one.

Now the Tigers needed to score some runs. However, Kevin Cash turned to Pete Fairbanks to maintain the scoreless deadlock, and that was going to make it tough. Fairbanks struck out Báez, but Harold Castro slapped a grounder the opposite way for a one-out single. Unfortunately, Jeimer Candelario smoked a line drive to Paredes at second, and Schoop swung through some 100 mph heat as Fairbanks turned the Tigers away.

Of course, the Tigers have some nasty relievers as well, and Alex Lange showed that off in the top of the eighth, punching out Lowe in a swift 1-2-3 inning.

The Rays turned to lefty Colin Poche in the eighth, and the Tigers have seen him twice already in the series. This seemed like the time to get something done, and Victor Reyes, taking over for Baddoo in left field to pinch hit here, agreed. The outfielder dropped a bunt down the third base line and Yandy Diaz threw high, pulling Choi off the base to reach for a single. But wait. Upon review, Choi got his foot down just in time, and the Rays won the challenge. A.J. Hinch turned to two more pinch hitters against the lefty, but Daz Cameron and Eric Haase both struck out as Poche’s relentless all-fourseam fastball approached continued to go unsolved by Tigers’ hitters.

So, entering the ninth, with Gregory Soto taking over, the Tigers defense was reset with Haase taking over at catcher, Cameron in for Willi Castro in right field with Castro moving to second base, and Jonathan Schoop moving to first base with Kody Clemens out of the game.

Roman Quinn quickly popped out to Báez for the first out. Paredes singled with two strikes, but Christian Bethancourt lined out to Greene in center field. Soto continued to mix in his slider more than he had earlier in the year. However, Mejia came up big for the Rays, pulling a sinker down at the bottom of the zone for a double to right field to move Paredes to third with two outs. And then Soto came unglued. Needing to slam the door against Jose Siri, but rapidly losing his timing, he fell behind 3-0 to the Rays’ center fielder. He bounced back with a pair of sinkers for strikes, but missed inside on the 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Yu Chang worked a 3-2 count with Soto still struggling to dial it back in, and he walked him to force home the game’s first run. And then he walked Yandy Diaz as well. Brutal. 2-0 Rays.

A.J. Hinch was trying to save Jason Foley for extras, but had no choice but to bring him in with the bases still loaded with two outs and guess who? Brandon Lowe at the dish. Lowe rapped a single back through the box and two more runs scored. 4-0 Rays.

With the dam now broken, the Rays were feeling great and Randy Arozarena doubled to right field to score two more runs. 6-0 Rays. Just a complete debacle of a ninth inning creating a blowout out of nothing at all. Roman Quinn singled home Arozarena to make it 7-0. Finally, Foley was able to get an out, striking out Paredes to end the nightmare.

With the entire fanbase having rinsed out their eyeballs and moved on with their day already, the Tigers went quietly 1-2-3, and that was that.

The Tigers have an off day on Monday before the Cleveland Guardians come to town for three starting Tuesday night.

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