Well, look who is on top of baseball? Why, it’s the Tampa Bay Rays.
And who would have thought to look for them there?
The Rays opened the 2017 season with a 7-3 victory over the New York Yankees Sunday. And while it’s early, it was an impressive way to start the season for the Rays. The Rays, 16 games behind the Yankees a year ago, jumped New York early and never slowed in the win.
Tampa Bay scored three times in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria and a two-run single by Logan Morrison. Both Longoria and Morrison– Longo and Lo-Mo – later homered. Longoria’s homer was the first one of the major league season, the first time a Ray can claim that honor.
For the Rays, Kevin Kiermaier, Brad Miller and Evan Longoria had two hits. Only Steven Souza was hitless of the Rays’ batters, and he had a walk.
Chris Archer, a 19-game loser last season, pitched well for the Rays. He went seven innings and gave up only two earned runs in winning on Opening Day for the first time.
Archer’s big moment came in the seventh, when he got Gary Sanchez to ground out with the bases loaded on a 2-2 pitch.
“I think the tone was set just by the way Archer came out and really was under control of himself, of the game,” said Cash. “Even the first two runs that they scored, he had some awkward plays behind him – but that’s part of the game. He didn’t let it snowball, he just kept it right there. The offense obviously (did a) tremendous job, but I think it all starts with Archer.”
The Rays beat up New York’s Masahiro Tanaka, who had been 6-0 vs. the Rays. In 2 2/3 innings, they touched Tanaka for seven runs, eight hits and two walks.
“(Longoria’s homer had a) pretty big (impact),” Cash said. “I mean that’s Evan Longoria – that’s why he’s been such a staple here for the Tampa Bay Rays for so long. I know he broke a record today with his Opening Day…. I mean, we get three runs, they come back and score to make it 3-2, and he separates the game. You don’t like to say that the dagger is in the third inning or whatever it was – but that was pretty big bolt for us and tough to overcome.”
Archer pitched seven innings in five of his last six starts last year. Against the Yankees, however, he seemed calmer, more in control.
Archer said his big inning in the seventh was a matter of simplifying.
“I said ‘I was thinking one pitch at a time.’ I said ‘I’m going to execute this. Now this next pitch, I’m going to execute this. And this next pitch I’m going to execute this.’ It wasn’t really complex. I knew the way I was throwing the ball and the type of contact that I was getting.
The Rays are off today, then host the Yankees again on Tuesday.