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Tim Tebow and Michael Jordan, Pied Pipers for baseball

Believe it or not, Tim Tebow and Michael Jordan have a few things in common. Most know that both made huge names for themselves while playing before capacity crowds during their college days.

Like Jordan, Tebow was part of a college championship as a freshman. Jordan and North Carolina won the 1982 NCAA Basketball Tournament, with Jordan providing the winning points. A generation later, the Florida Gators were the 2006 BCS national champions, with Tebow accounting for two touchdowns.

Jordan won the James Naismith Award as college basketball’s best player. Tebow won the Heisman Trophy as the top player in college football.

There is, of course, nothing to compare in their professional careers. Jordan, with 6 NBA titles playing for the Chicago Bulls, was arguably the best to ever play the game, while Tebow won one playoff game for the Denver Broncos.

In 2017, more comparisons between the two have emerged. Not for glory in their primary sports, but instead for their mutual detours into professional baseball.

Many in the sporting world know Tebow is giving baseball a try with the Columbia Fireflies, the New York Mets’ Class A farm team. in South Carolina. The frenzy surrounding him began on opening day when he homered in his very first career at-bat before a sellout crowd.

Since that day, Tebow has connected for one other home run and as of Friday, his batting average was down to .221. No matter; he is still a big draw.

The Fireflies’ average attendance is up by around 45 percent so far. Teams in Hickory, North Carolina and Augusta, Georgia report spikes of 120 percent and 82 percent, respectively, when Tebow and Columbia are in town.

“He’s a celebrity and he’s a brand,” Lakewood (NJ) BlueClaws’ director of ticket sales Jim McNamara told ESPN.com. “Plus, the casual fan into pop culture is interested in him.”

Lakewood drew twice their season average during a recent series when Tebow paid a visit.

As for Jordan, the basketball superstar struggled throughout the summer of 1994 playing for the Chicago White Sox Minor League affiliate in Birmingham. He hit .202 with three home runs and 51 runs batted in, with plenty of strikeouts, for the Barons that year.

Yet his effect on Minor League Baseball was just the same as Tebow’s 23 years later. During a visit to Nashville in late April, 1994, the Tennessean newspaper described Jordan’s following this way.

“In just 15 Double-A games, Michael Jordan has assumed the role as Minor League Baseball’s Pied Piper.” The night before, the Nashville Xpress experienced a record crowd of more than 15,000 for the game. It was a common occurrence throughout the Southern League that year.

“Michael Jordan can bring something to baseball that nobody else can bring,” said Xpress owner Larry Schmittou. “He can put people in the seats.”

Now, 23 years later, change the name in that quote to Tim Tebow, and we have come full circle.

After a welcome day off, Rays prepare to welcome Yankees to Tropicana Field

The Tampa Bay Rays have been looking forward to Thursday. This day will be like no other that they have experienced since April 27.

It is called on off-day.

Thursday marks only their third day off since the season began, but it will be the first for them at home. The other two were in New York and traveling between Baltimore and Toronto.

The span of 20-games-in-20 days started with 5 games in Toronto and Miami and finished with 6 games in Boston and Cleveland.  In between were 9 home games with Miami, Toronto and Kansas City.

While the Rays went 10-10 over that span, the 3-6 home stand left many wondering if the team was poised for a prolonged tailspin. After all, they were heading out to face the Red Sox and Indians on the road, which is no easy task to put it mildly.

Winning four of those 6 games gives the team a welcome boost heading into the off day. Taking the last two in Cleveland was extra important.

Their stay in Cleveland was eventful. Doing what they do best, the Rays hit 10-home runs at Progressive Field over the three games, a franchise record.

“Home runs are fun,” Colby Rasmus said on mlb.com. “Chicks dig the long ball. We’re just trying to put good swings on it.”

For those needing a refresher, the Rasmus reference to “chicks” came from the famous ad featuring Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Mark McGwire.

Tuesday’s game, a 6-4 Rays’ win, provided the best example of the dichotomy that describes this Rays team. Tampa Bay became only the third team in history to hit 5 home runs, while striking out 16 times in the same game.

While they lead MLB in strikeouts by a wide margin, the Rays, as they should, choose to look at the positive.

“Obviously, a great series,” said Rays’ Manager Kevin Cash. “It’s a pretty challenging task to go into Boston and come in (to Cleveland) and find a way to have a winning road trip.”

After the day off, the Rays welcome the Yankees to Tropicana Field on Friday. They are six games behind New York, who continues to surprise with the performance of young players.

Friday’s game begins a stretch of 13 games before their next day off on June 1, meaning they will have played 33 games in 34 days barring any rainouts.

Hopefully, they will take advantage of the brief respite Thursday provides.

 

Corey Dickerson, Alex Cobb power Rays to win over Indians

For the first time in a year, the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t get run over on the road.

Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer — his third homer in two days — and Alex Cobb controlled Cleveland over seven inning as Tampa Bay busted out the bats in a 7-4 win over the Indians on Wednesday to complete the Rays’ most successful trip since last May.

Dickerson connected in the second inning off Josh Tomlin (2-5) and Logan Morrison hit a solo shot in the third for the free-swinging Rays, who hit a franchise-record 10 homers in the three-game series and went 4-2 on a swing through Boston and Cleveland — two of the AL’s toughest stops.

“We’re coming out of here on a huge high,” said Cobb, who threw 115 pitches — his most since Tommy John surgery in 2014 — on an unseasonably warm day. “We’re pumped about the way we played on this road trip. We’ve done a good of putting things together.”

Cobb (4-3) allowed three runs and six hits and retired the last eight batters he faced.

Jesus Sucre also homered for the Rays, who have 59 already this season.

“They might strike out quite a bit, but they’re a pretty athletic bunch,” Tomlin said. “I know they swing a lot, but they can find the barrel pretty good, too.”

Indians rookie Bradley Zimmer hit his first career homer in the ninth off Alex Colome, and Jason Kipnis almost got one, but Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier robbed him with a leaping catch for the final out.

While the Rays found their swing on the road, Edwin Encarnacion remains in a hitting funk for Cleveland.

The slumping slugger struck out looking with the bases loaded in the third and again with one on in the fifth. Encarnacion, who signed a three-year, $60 million free agent contract — the richest in team history — is batting just .203 and in a 2 for 23 slide.

Encarnacion is also batting only .108 (4 for 37) with runners in scoring position.

“He’s OK. He really is,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He knows what’s going on and what he’s supposed to do and all that. He’s OK and he’s going to be OK, it’s just not been the best six weeks. He’ll get it.”

After Dickerson homered twice in a five-homer barrage Tuesday Tampa Bay came out swinging against Tomlin, who struck out five straight before giving up three consecutive two-out hits — the last an RBI double by Sucre.

Dickerson, who came in tied for the AL lead in hits, followed with his ninth homer, a towering shot into the right-field seats to make it 4-0.

THE CATCH

Kiermaier ended the trip with a dazzling play, backing up to the wall and snagging Kipnis’ shot.

“It felt really good to close out the game like that,” he said. “Colome’s my guy so I’m happy I was able to save him a run.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: Starting 2B Brad Miller (strained left abdominal muscle) missed his second straight game and will be examined by a doctor before Friday’s series opener against the Yankees.

 UP NEXT

Rays: Tampa will have its only day off in May before opening a three-game series at home Friday with RHP Erasmo Ramirez facing the Yankees. Ramirez just rejoined the rotation after Blake Snell was sent to the minors.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

4 Florida top-30 college baseball teams push toward post season

Heading into the final weekend of regular season play, four Florida teams are ranked among the top 30 in college baseball. The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is one of the tools used to choose the 64-team NCAA Tournament field and barring any disasters, Florida, Florida State, South Florida and Central Florida should hear their names called on selection day in less than two weeks.

In an unusual occurrence, Florida State fans must realize they have seen their team play at Dick Howser Stadium for the last time this year. The Seminoles will most likely make the NCAA Tournament, but their losing ACC record (12-14) is only eighth best and their overall record of 33-20 will have them traveling for any post season play. They are ranked 26th in the RPI.

“We ain’t getting a regional. Sorry,” said FSU Coach Mike Martin after dropping two of three to Wake Forest last weekend.

That will be the first time since 2006 FSU will not host a regional. While they would be grateful for the tournament invite, all they would ask is for the committee not to send them to Gainesville again. The last two seasons have come to an end for the Seminoles in the Super Regional at the hands – and bats — of the Gators at McKethan Stadium.

The Gators know they will be hosting a regional, but this weekend they will be playing to hold onto their position among the top 8 teams nationally. Those 8 will be scheduled to host Super Regionals.

Florida, ranked 5th in the RPI, hosts 7th-ranked Kentucky. A sweep by Florida gives them the SEC regular season crown. The SEC Conference Tournament begins May 23 in Hoover, Ala.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of success against Kentucky,” Gator Coach Kevin O’Sullivan told floridagators.com. “I don’t think it’s going to be easy.”

South Florida and Central Florida are tied at 13-8 for the American Athletic Conference lead heading into a showdown series this weekend in Orlando. The Bulls and Knights are battling Houston (13-8) and Connecticut (12-9) for the top seed in the conference tournament beginning May 23 in Clearwater.

USF, ranked 21st, swept the 27th-ranked Knights in Tampa last month. Both are expected to be on the road for any NCAA Tournament games, but UCF will have some revenge and a regular-season title on their minds.

A few are even making the case for USF to host a regional if they win the conference title. Bulls’ boosters highlight the fact they are 5-0 this season against Florida, Florida State and UCF.

Winning conference tournaments can lead to others getting in. Miami is only ranked 54th and has a 25-26 record making their chances slim. Florida Gulf Coast, Florida Atlantic, Jacksonville, Florida International are all ranked in the top 80.

 

Rowdies advance in U.S. Open Cup after 3-0 win over Jacksonville Armada U23

The Tampa Bay Rowdies cruised into the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-0 win over the Jacksonville Armada U23s at Al Lang Stadium on Tuesday night.

The Open Cup is a knockout tournament featuring teams from all levels of the American soccer system, including qualifying amateur clubs.

Kyle Porter, Alex Morrell and Martin Paterson scored the goals for Tampa Bay as the Rowdies moved on in the competition.

Tampa Bay now advances to face either Miami FC (NASL) or the South Florida Surf (PDL) in the Third Round on May 31. Those two teams play Wednesday night. Should Miami FC win, the Rowdies will have to travel to Miami. Should the Surf win, the match will be played at Al Lang.

“I thought it was a really, really professional performance by the team,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We went out and got the job done, which was to win the game and get into the next round. … The game is done and dusted and we have games coming up in the league so we’ll shift our focus to that now.”

Playing an opponent from the fourth-tier NPSL, the Rowdies didn’t have to wait long to claim a lead.

With the ball at his feet on the right sideline, Porter spotted Jacksonville goalkeeper Juan Fajardo off his line and took an audacious shot that Fajardo got a touch to, but couldn’t keep from going over the line for a 1-0 Rowdies lead in just the third minute.

Up a goal, the Rowdies dominated the remainder of the first half, but didn’t double their lead until the 43rd minute when Morrell stole the ball off an Armada U23 defender and raced toward goal before beating Fajardo from a sharp angle for a 2-0 lead.

“Luckily, the guy had a bad pass and I picked it off,” Morrell said. “I made the most out of it and scored on my old keeper from college. That was nice.”

Paterson finished the scoring in the 68th minute, tapping in a low cross from Darwin Jones for his second goal of the season in all competitions.

The result was never really in doubt, particularly after Jacksonville was reduced to 10 men in the 62nd minute when Dener Dos Santos was shown a red card. The Rowdies took six shots on target and didn’t allow a single one from Jacksonville.

It was Tampa Bay’s seventh clean sheet in 10 matches in all competitions.

Head Coach Stuart Campbell made a handful of changes to his team for the match, including selecting defender Tamika Mkandawire and midfielder Keith Savage for their first starts of the season. Defender Zac Portillos came off the bench in the second half for his first appearance of 2017.

“I made a lot of changes, because I didn’t have much choice playing Saturday, Tuesday, Friday, but on the other hand, I was delighted that I got the opportunity to give players minutes that haven’t had any,” Campbell said. “It’s tough for me not to play everybody, but it’s great that I could play guys that really, really deserved to start. They showed what great professionals they are.”

Up next, the Rowdies turn their focus back to USL league play with a short turnaround before visiting Toronto FC II on Friday night. The Rowdies beat TFC II 4-0 on April 1. Tampa Bay then visits the Rochester Rhinos next week before returning home to host Saint Louis FC in St. Petersburg on May 27.

Rays hit 5 homers in 6-4 win over Indians

The Tampa Bay Rays went to the home run ball in Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians.

Corey Dickerson hit two of Tampa Bay’s season-high five homers, including a 449-foot blast that landed in the trees beyond the center field wall in the fifth.

“It was one of my top ones, to be able to hit it clean like that and to know it’s gone,” he said. “The ones to dead center always feel good. I thought it was further than 450, though.”

Dickerson also hit a solo homer in the third off Danny Salazar (2-4). Colby Rasmus and Derek Norris added solo shots off Cleveland’s starter while Tim Beckham hit a two-run homer off Shawn Armstrong.

Jake Odorizzi (3-2) allowed four runs in six innings. The right-hander took a 6-1 lead into the sixth, but Edwin Encarnacion broke an 0-for-18 skid with a two-run homer to cap a three-run rally.

“I know we got a bunch of solo shots in there, and then Beck came up with a big two-run blast,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “The offense definitely carried over into this game and got us a nice cushion there for Odo to work with.”

Jose Alvarado retired all six batters he faced and Alex Colome pitched out of a ninth-inning jam for his 10th save.

Encarnacion led off with a single, but Colome retired Jose Ramirez on a groundout and struck out Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes.

Indians center fielder Bradley Zimmer was 0 for 3 and struck out three times in his major league debut. Cleveland called up its No. 1 pick in 2014 from Triple-A Columbus earlier Tuesday.

The Rays won despite striking out 16 times.

Rasmus homered with two outs in the second while Norris and Dickerson went back-to-back to start the third. Beckham’s sixth-inning home run pushed the lead to 6-1.

After using five relievers in Monday’s win, the Indians needed Salazar to pitch deep into the game, but he was pulled following a leadoff double in the sixth. The right-hander was charged with five runs and struck out nine in five-plus innings.

“I’m going to give you a couple of adjectives,” Indians manager Terry Francona said when asked about Salazar’s performance. “One’s vexing. He has good enough stuff to punch out nine. Gives up six hits, four of them are home runs. When he made a mistake he really paid for it.”

Salazar was coming off a shaky outing against Toronto, in which he couldn’t hold two early leads and allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings. He hasn’t won since April 29.

“I’ve been struggling,” Salazar said. “Today, I was able to bring my ball down a little bit, but things just aren’t working the way I’m expecting.”

MEMORIES

With Zimmer playing his first game, Francona recalled his major league debut with the Montreal Expos against the Houston Astros on Aug. 19, 1981. He was scheduled to be in the lineup against Nolan Ryan, but a strike by air traffic controllers delayed his flight from Denver, where he had been playing in Triple-A, to Houston.

Ryan was pitching a no-hitter when Francona arrived at the Astrodome in the fourth inning. He pinch hit in the eighth and grounded out against Dave Smith.

RHP Erasmo Ramirez makes his second start of the season Friday against the Yankees. He will take the place of LHP Blake Snell, who was optioned to minors last week, in the rotation.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: 2B Brad Miller (strained left abdominal muscle) was scratched about two hours before the game.

Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (strained left pectoral muscle) will resume his between starts routine in a couple of days. He’s scheduled to start again on May 23 against Cincinnati.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Alex Cobb is 2-2 in four regular-season starts against Cleveland. He pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and got the win in 2013 AL wild card game at Progressive Field

Indians: RHP Josh Tomlin was the losing pitcher in his last start against Minnesota, despite allowing only Miguel Sano‘s solo homer in eight innings.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Indians hold off Rays 8-7

Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco left early with an injury, but five relievers kept the lead and helped the Indians hold off the Tampa Bay Rays 8-7 Monday night.

Carrasco was pulled because of tightness in his left pectoral muscle after giving up an RBI single to Brad Miller. The right-hander allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings and left with Cleveland ahead 7-4.

Boone Logan (1-0), who entered in the fifth, retired both batters he faced. Andrew Miller allowed his first run of the season in the eighth, and Cody Allen gave up a solo homer to Peter Bourjos in the ninth before recording his 10th save.

Lonnie Chisenhall hit a three-run homer when Cleveland scored five times in the first off Chris Archer (3-2). Francisco Lindor added a solo homer in the eighth.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Rays’ bats come alive in 11-2 rout of Red Sox

The Tampa Bay Rays spent their longest game in team history playing in wind, rain and chilly temperatures in Fenway Park. It certainly felt a lot better coming away with a win.

Steven Souza Jr. hit a three-run homer, Jesus Sucre drove in three runs and the Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 11-2 on Sunday.

The Rays beat the Red Sox for the second time in three games – and just the sixth time in the last 20 meetings – a day after striking out 16 times in a loss.

“I didn’t know that, but I’m excited,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said when he found out that it was the club’s longest game. “It’s much better than losing the longest game in club history.”

Evan Longoria and Sucre both had two singles, and Souza’s homer came during a seven-run ninth as the Rays matched their season-high with 16 hits in a game that lasted 4 hours, 32 minutes.

Boston starter Drew Pomeranz (3-3) came out with left triceps tightness before the fourth inning. He gave up two runs and three hits while walking three and striking out three.

“He wasn’t able to reproduce any symptoms later in the day,” manager John Farrell said. “We’ll see what transpires tomorrow. We don’t think this is anything long term.”

He’s expected to get an MRI on Monday.

“I felt something in warmups kind of similar to what I felt in spring training,” the left-hander said.

Xander Bogaerts had an RBI double for Boston after his 15-game hitting streak was halted Saturday.

Matt Andriese (3-1) gave up two runs in five innings.

Playing on a chilly, windy day with a drizzle falling on and off, both teams had trouble with pop ups – one fell against each and Rays first baseman Logan Morrison snow-coned another – and the outfielders looked like they were tip-toeing after balls on a muddy warning track.

“It was pretty ridiculous. I’ve never played in anything like this,” Souza Jr. said. “We’re all professionals. We’ve got to go out there and grind it out. We did a good job of not letting it get to us.”

In the second, Tampa Bay made it 2-1 after Pomeranz walked the first two batters, prompting a visit Farrell. Kevin Kiermaier sacrificed before Sucre’s sacrifice fly.

Sucre’s RBI single increased it to 3-1 in the fourth following a wind-blown ground-rule double. Kiermaier’s pop up fell between two fielders and bounced into the stands.

Longoria’s RBI single made it 4-2. Sucre, Rickie Weeks Jr., Tim Beckham and Kiermaier each had an RBI single in the ninth.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez (strained muscle right shoulder) was back after missing three games. . LHP David Price, sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow, threw a simulated game after his rehab start with Triple-A Pawtucket was rained out. “We’ll re-evaluate following Friday and wouldn’t rule out his return to us if everything goes according to plan,” Farrell said.

YOUR PRESENT, MOM

Andriese won on Mother’s Day for the second straight year. He earned the win against the Angels last year with his mother, Lynn, watching him for the first time in the big leagues.

“She was pretty happy,” Andriese said. “I got a text from her saying ‘Great win.’ It’s good to be 2-0 on Mother’s Day.”

SORRY MOMS

Due to the wet field, the Red Sox had to cancel the “running of the bases” that was scheduled for postgame.

ROSTER MOVE

Tampa Bay optioned Saturday’s losing pitcher Blake Snell to Triple-A Durham and recalled RHP Ryne Stanek from the same team. Snell was 0-4 with a 4.71 ERA in eight starts.

Stanek made his major-league debut, getting one out and allowing a single.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Chris Archer (3-1, 3.04 ERA) is set to start Monday’s opener of a three-game series at Cleveland against RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 1.86). Archer is coming off eight shutout innings Wednesday, earning a win against Kansas City.

Red Sox: Off Monday before opening a two-game interleague series at St. Louis on Tuesday. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (1-1, 2.80 ERA) is in line to start.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Tampa Bay Rowdies overpower Louisville City FC in 2-0 win

On the night that Georgi Hristov became the new record holder for most appearances for the modern Tampa Bay Rowdies, Georgi Hristov did what Georgi Hristov does best.

Hristov scored the first goal of the night as the Rowdies knocked Louisville City FC from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 2-0 win in front of 5,410 fans at Al Lang Stadium.

Hristov entered the match tied with Takuya Yamada on 120 official appearances for the Rowdies and entered the match in the 53rd minute to take sole possession at the top of the record book.

His entrance changed the whole tone of the match and it didn’t take long for the Bulgarian — who also holds the Modern Era scoring record — to put his team ahead.

Just six minutes after entering the match, Hristov received the ball on the left wing and cut in on his right foot before launching a picture-perfect right-footed shot that curled around Louisville goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski and into the side netting to put Tampa Bay ahead.

It was Hristov’s team-high fourth goal of the season and his 42nd as a member of the Rowdies.

“I knew I was going to make an impact,” Hristov said. “I know it sounds a little bit cocky, but I felt that way. I wasn’t sure if I was going to score a goal, but I really believed I had to make an impact because we needed it. … It was a great win against, what I personally think, is one of the best teams in the league.”

Deshorn Brown would double Tampa Bay’s lead in the 72nd minute, collecting a masterful pass from Joe Cole and beating Dobrowolski one-on-one to score his third goal of the season.

The win is Tampa Bay’s fifth in six home matches this season. It was the Rowdies’ sixth clean sheet in nine games. Prior to Hristov’s goal, Louisville hadn’t trailed a match all season.

“Georgi is a top-drawer player,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with him and we’re fortunate to have him in our ranks because he could play at the very highest level.”

It was a quiet first half for both sides, with just two total shots on goal in the opening 45 minutes, both for the Rowdies.

In the second half, the Rowdies were clearly the much better side.

Nearly from the moment Hristov entered the match, Tampa Bay piled the pressure on Louisville.

“In the second half, we felt opportunities would arise because they couldn’t keep pressuring us at the level they were,” Campbell said. “It was nice to get a result against (Louisville.) They took three points off us in the first game and we spoke about how we wanted to get those points back.”

A pair of back-to-back corner kicks in the 55th minute saw both Darwin Jones and Joe Cole have shots saved by Dobrowolski.

Louisville’s best scoring chance of the night came in the 70th minute when Kyle Smith put a header on target from point-blank range, but Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens got down quickly to make the save at his left-hand post. It was Louisville’s only shot on target all night.

The win saw the Rowdies keep pace with the Charleston Battery atop the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay sits in second place with 17 points, two behind Charleston.

For now, though, the Rowdies will turn their focus toward the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which begins Tuesday night for Tampa Bay. The Rowdies host Jacksonville Armada FC U23 in the second round at Al Lang. For free tickets, call (727) 308-5203 or email boxoffice@rowdiessoccer.com.

Tampa Bay will be back in league action next Friday tonight, when it visits Toronto FC II. The Rowdies’ next home USL game is May 27 against Saint Louis FC.

Scoring Summary
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov – 59th minute (Assisted by Joe Cole)
Rowdies: Deshorn Brown – 72nd minute (Assisted by Joe Cole)

Caution Summary
Rowdies: Darnell King – 46th minute
Rowdies: Damion Lowe – 70th minute
Rowdies: Neill Collins – 73rd minute
Rowdies: Marcel Schäfer – 78th minute
Louisville: Paco Craig – 87th minute
Rowdies: Matt Pickens – 89th minute

Starting Lineups
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, Damion Lowe, Neill Collins, Marcel Schäfer; M Justin Chavez, Martin Vingaard; M Darwin Jones, Joe Cole (c)(Michael Nanchoff 89′), Leo Fernandes (Georgi Hristov 53′); F Deshorn Brown (Martin Paterson 78′)

Louisville City FC XI (4-2-3-1): GK Tim Dobrowolski; D Kyle Smith, Sean Totsch, Paco Craig, Oscar Jimenez; M Guy Abend, Paolo DelPiccolo (c); M Brian Ownby (Cameron Lancaster 71′), George Davis IV (Ilija Ilic 79′), Mark Anthony Kaye (Richard Ballard 65′); F Luke Spencer.

 

Chris Sale, relievers fan 16 Rays in 6-3 Red Sox win

Nothing complicated about Chris Sale‘s strong start with the Boston Red Sox. It’s just more of the same from his time with the White Sox.

Sale struck out 12 while pitching seven solid innings and Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer, leading the Red Sox to a 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday.

It was Sale’s seventh straight start with double-digit strikeouts. The 6-foot-6 left-hander allowed three runs and two hits, both homers.

“It’s almost a carbon copy of each of the six previous starts, with the exception of a couple of pitches that leave the ballpark,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.

Betts also doubled in a run in Boston’s four-run fifth inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. had two hits, including his first double of the season, and Deven Marrero drove in two runs, helping the Red Sox to their 14th win in their last 19 games against the Rays.

Sale (4-2) has struck out 10 or more in every start since he had seven Ks in his Boston debut after he was acquired in a blockbuster offseason trade with Chicago.

“Just finding a good rhythm and tempo,” Sale said. “That’s the key to pitching, going out there and trying to get in a groove. It was nice that when I hit rough patches, my team was right there to pick me up today.”

Kevin Kiermaier and Logan Morrison homered for Tampa Bay, which has dropped seven of 11.

The game was moved from 7:05 p.m. to 1:05 p.m. because of heavy rain forecasted for late afternoon into Sunday.

Pitching in his usual short sleeves on an unseasonably cool day under cloudy skies, Sale mixed his mid-90s fastball with his terrific slider and an occasional changeup for another solid outing. He got Evan Longoria looking on a 94-mph fastball in the sixth for his 10th strikeout.

Joe Kelly worked the eighth before Craig Kimbrel finished the three-hitter for his 11th save. The Rays fanned 16 times.

“Obviously today we saw a lot of power,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “The first six or seven innings they’ve got the best lefty in the American League throwing. Look, they’ve got a lot of weapons, but that’s something eventually we’ll need to overcome.”

Boston led 2-1 before Kiermaier hit a two-run shot on an 0-2 fastball with two out in the fifth.

But the Red Sox rallied in the bottom half. Marrero hit a two-run double off the Green Monster against Blake Snell (0-4). Betts followed with his RBI double, and Xander Bogaerts added a run-scoring grounder.

Snell allowed six runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.

“When you face (Sale) and your team gives you three runs, you need to lock it down,” he said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: OF Steven Souza Jr. returned to the lineup after missing the previous four games with a bruised right thumb. … RHP Tommy Hunter, on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right calf, threw a bullpen session and felt fine.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez, who left an interleague start at first base earlier this week with a muscle spasm in his right shoulder, was out of the lineup for the third straight game, but Farrell said he could be available Sunday. … LHP Dave Price, sidelined since early spring training with a strained left elbow, is set to make a rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday.

CHASING PEDRO

Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez is the only other Red Sox pitcher to reach seven straight double-digit strikeout games. He posted eight twice, his last coming in the final starts of his AL Cy Young Award-winning 1999 season.

MORE SALE

Sale has 85 strikeouts through eight starts, tied with Randy Johnson – then with Houston in 1998 – for the most ever by a pitcher after their initial eight starts with a new team.

JUMP

First base umpire Laz Diaz had to jump out of the way of a rolling bat that got away from Tampa Bay pinch hitter Brad Miller.

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Rays: RHP Matt Andriese (2-1, 3.12 ERA) is set to start the series finale Sunday. He has given up three or fewer runs in his last six starts.

Red Sox: LHP Drew Pomeranz (3-2, 5.23 ERA) looks to rebound from a rough outing when he gave up six runs in four innings during a loss Tuesday.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

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