Tampa Bay backed a quality outing from Blake Snell with four runs off of Shane Bieber in the sixth inning as the Rays knocked off the Cleveland Indians in a 5-3 final from Progressive Field on Saturday night.
The All-Star Snell overcame early run support for Bieber as he gave up two runs (one earned) and continued his dominant run on the mound on the way to his 17th win of the season. Bieber performed well through the first five innings, but the third time through the order would prove to be too problematic for the 23-year-old rookie righty.
The Indians threatened against the southpaw Snell in the first, but could not deliver. Michael Brantley singled with one out and stole second as Jose Ramirez struck out. Edwin Encarnacion drew a walk and the duo both stole bases, but Yandy Diaz fouled out to right to end the inning.
Cleveland claimed a lead in the second. Brandon Guyer reached safely and moved to second on a throwing error by Matt Duffy. Melky Cabrera split the gap in center to drive him in with a double, and a double from Yan Gomes plated Cabrera to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. After Snell retired the next two, Brantley singled for the second straight inning, but Kevin Kiermaier threw a strike on the fly to catcher Jesus Sucre, who had Gomes dead-to-rights at the plate to end the inning.
Snell gave up a single in the third, but got a double play to escape harm. In the fourth, he gave up back-to-back singles, but in between the hits, Guyer was caught stealing to minimize the threat.
Bieber worked around early trouble with some help from the defense around him. He allowed a single to Joey Wendle (who extended his hitting streak to seven straight) to start the night, but he was doubled off of first on a foul pop up by Duffy. Ji-Man Choi doubled to the wall in left-center, but Guyer made a leaping catch of a deep drive to center by Tommy Pham to strand a runner in scoring position. Willy Adames singled with one out in the second, but he was caught stealing before Jake Bauers lined to short to extend his hitting slump. In the fourth, Choi doubled again with one out, but after a strikeout by Pham, Choi was caught straying by catcher Gomes, who picked off his fifth runner of the year. Bauers was stranded in the fifth after a two-out double.
The sixth proved to be the difference as the lineup flipped over for the third time against Bieber. Brandon Lowe singled and Wendle doubled to put a pair in scoring position. Duffy delivered a two-run double to right to tie the game. Choi was finally retired on a grounder to second, but Pham blasted a double to center to push across the go-ahead run while knocking Bieber out of the game. Tyler Olson came on from the Indians bullpen for manager Terry Francona, but he could not retire the struggling Kiermaier, who singled to right to drive in Pham with the fourth run of the frame. After Olson intentionally walked Adames and struck out Bauers, Adam Cimber came on to retire the ninth batter of the inning, getting Sucre to ground to third to leave a runner at second.
Snell struck out the side in order in the sixth and added a fourth straight K when he struck out Cabrera to start the seventh. A groundout by Gomes was followed by a single to right by Erik Gonzalez, spelling the end of Snell’s night. Jose Alvarado entered for manager Kevin Cash and got Francisco Lindor to ground out to second to end the inning.
New addition Jon Edwards pitched the eighth for the Indians and worked into and out of a jam in a two-run game. Choi singled and moved to second two outs later on a four-pitch walk by Adames. Bauers followed with a five-pitch free pass to load the bases, but the veteran right-hander Edwards got Sucre to ground into an inning-ending force at third.
The first two reached for the Tribe in the bottom of the eighth, but again they were kept off of the scoreboard. Brantley reached safely on an error by Adames at short and Ramirez walked off of Alvarado, bringing Chaz Roe on in relief. He got Encarnacion to ground into a double play before inducing a fly to center by Diaz.
Josh Tomlin took the mound for Cleveland in the ninth and fell quickly into old habits. His first pitch to Lowe was driven to right and off of the foul pole for a solo shot, extending the Rays lead to 5-2.
The Indians got the run back quickly in the bottom of the ninth, as pinch-hitter Jason Kipnis took Roe deep to right to make it a 5-3 game. Roe retired the next two and handed the ball over to Adam Kolarek, who got the inning’s second pinch-hitter, Yonder Alonso, to end the game with a grounder to first.
The Rays moved to 72-63 on the season and 31-39 on the road. The Indians fell to 77-58 with the defeat, but maintained a 14-game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central as the Twins fell to the Texas Rangers.
Snell worked six and two-thirds innings in a quality start to improve to 17-5 on the season. He allowed two runs (one earned) on eight hits while walking one and striking out nine on 101 pitches. Alvarado and Roe each earned holds (their 27th and 25th, respectively), while Kolarek’s save was his second of the year.
Bieber had dodged early trouble, but could not escape the quick attack in the sixth as the Rays faced him for a third time. He lasted five and one-third innings, giving up four runs on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts. He dropped to 8-3 with the defeat.
The top of the Rays lineup did the heavy lifting, as Wendle, Duffy, and Choi combined to go 7-for-15 with two runs scored and two RBI. Pham and Kiermaier each contributed RBIs in the middle of the lineup. The latter left the game early with back spasms.
Brantley kicked off his September just as he performed during a strong August. He had two hits in four at bats. Cabrera also had a pair of hits, while Kipnis hit his 14th homer of the year.
New Tribe third baseman Josh Donaldson arrived during the game and was seen in uniform in the Cleveland dugout, where he spent portions of the contest greeting his new teammates.
The rubber match between the Indians and Rays is scheduled for a special 4:10 PM ET start on Sunday. Carlos Carrasco (16-7, 3.38 ERA) aims to continue impressive work against the Rays over the last few years, when he has posted a 3-1 record with a 2.57 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in five starts. Diego Castillo (3-2, 3.73), a 24-year-old rookie right-hander, will make his 34th appearance and fourth start of the season for the Rays.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images