Tribe Routed by Rays as Offensive Woes Continue; Rays 7, Indians 2

The Tampa Bay Rays used four home runs, including one of an unconventional variety, to rout the Cleveland Indians by a 7-2 final on Thursday night in the series opener from Progressive Field.

The Rays (29-18) took an aggressive approach at the plate against Indians’ right-hander Adam Plutko to jump out to an early lead, then used the middle innings to tack on plenty of insurance while the Cleveland bats were baffled by left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, who was called up by Tampa prior to the game. He worked a career-high seven and one-third innings for his third win of the year. The Indians (25-24) dropped their fourth straight game on their eleven-game homestand and fell further in back of the homer-happy Minnesota Twins in the American League Central.

The Indians had few answers for Yarbrough, who limited them to just four hits on the day. The Rays did not have the same problem with Plutko, getting that same number of home runs as the Tribe had hits while racking up a dozen knocks off of the 27-year-old hurler.

Yarbrough – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Tampa was on the scoreboard eight pitches into the game. After Austin Meadows fouled off the sixth pitch of his at bat to third to open the ball game, Tommy Pham drove an 0-1 changeup onto the Home Run Porch to put the Rays up, 1-0. Two batters later, Avisail Garcia took a similar approach, blasting an 0-1 slider deep to center to give Tampa an early two-run advantage.

Yarbrough retired the side in order in the first before getting a third run of support from the leadoff man in the third. Willy Adames follow suit to his previous two teammates, eating up an 0-1 fastball that caught too much of the plate before he belted it over the wall in center for the Rays’ third homer through six batters. With a 3-0 lead, the Rays got two more on the bases with a Kevin Kiermaier single and a one-out single by Daniel Robertson before Plutko got Meadows and Pham on outs in the air.

The Indians got their first of four hits on the night with a one-out single in the second by Jose Ramirez on a well-struck ball to left, but he could not progress around the bases as Jake Bauers was cut down on three straight curveballs before Eric Haase grounded into a fielder’s choice force at second in his first at bat of the season.

Plutko had to work out of another jam in the third. Ji-Man Choi singled to right to start the frame before back-to-back fly outs to center by Garcia and Brandon Lowe. Adames added his second hit of the game with a single to center, but Kiermaier was retired in a close play at first on a grounder at third to end the inning.

Plutko got a little help from his friends after allowing the leadoff men on base in the third and fourth, as double play grounders got him out of both situations unharmed. He would not have the same luck in the sixth when Lowe reached on an infield single to be the fifth straight leadoff man to reach for the Rays on the night. He was joined on the bases on the third hit of the game by Adames, who doubled over the head of Martin in center. With two in scoring position and nobody out, Kiermaier lofted a fly ball perfectly between Oscar Mercado and Leonys Martin in left-center. The two converged, with Mercado sliding and Martin diving for the ball. They collided, with the ball ricocheting back towards the left field corner. Mercado was down and in clear pain while Martin eventually got up before falling back to the turf. Francisco Lindor raced to the ball, but there was no chance to catch the speedy Kiermaier, who scored easily on the three-run inside-the-park home run to give the Rays a 6-0 lead. Surprisingly, both outfielders remained in the game after a lengthy on-field delay. After an out by Erik Kratz, Andrew Velazquez got his first hit of the year, a double to center, before Plutko was lifted for Oliver Perez. He advanced the runner on a wild pitch before retiring Meadows on a fly to shallow left. Pham came through with a two-out base knock to right to give the Rays their final run on the night, making it a 7-0 contest.

Yarbrough retired 12 in a row before Mercado reached first on a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth. He did not last long on the bases though, as after Jason Kipnis singled with two outs, Mercado was lifted for pinch-runner Mike Freeman due to lingering effects from his collision with Martin in left-center. Carlos Santana walked to load the bases and Jordan Luplow delivered the Indians’ only two runs of the night with a two-run double deep to left, plating Freeman and Kipnis to make it a 7-2 game.

Yarbrough set down the final five that he faced after the Luplow double, turning the game over to Ryne Stanek with one down in the eighth. He got Lindor to fly to center before striking out Kipnis.

The Indians bullpen kept the deficit at five runs with three scoreless frames after Perez. A.J. Cole and Tyler Clippard pitched perfect innings, and Brad Hand allowed two men to reach in the ninth on a one-out single by Pham and a walk by Choi, but Garcia grounded into an inning-ending double play to send the Tribe to their last chances.

Emilio Pagan took the mound to wrap things up for the Rays in the bottom of the ninth and made it a little interesting before getting the job done. He walked Santana to start the inning and one out later did the same with Ramirez, but Bauers flied to left and Haase struck out swinging to end it.

Plutko – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Plutko could not replicate his gem of a season debut from his last start against Baltimore. Despite facing a lineup with almost no experience against him, he was tagged for 12 hits and walked three over five and one-third innings. He was charged with seven runs (all earned) and struck out three. He faced 27 batters and threw 87 pitches as the Rays exploited his aggressiveness over the plate with an aggressive approach of their own in response.

“Clearly, they were better than I was today,” said Plutko. “They got to me early. Hung with them for a bit and they delivered the knockout blow there in the sixth. Not my best day.”

Yarbrough returned to the Rays after a stint at Triple-A Durham and gave an impressive quality start. He threw a career-best seven and one-third innings for manager Kevin Cash, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts over 99 pitches. He was around the plate far more than Plutko, but he rocked the Indians to sleep with offspeed pitches, getting 17 swings and misses on the night.

Pham’s three-hit day extended his hitting streak to nine straight games. Kiermaier’s single in the second gave him a six-game streak of his own. Robertson left in the fifth for the Rays after having an allergic reaction to the pre-game meal.

Kipnis’ single during the sixth inning rally extended his on-base streak to 18 straight games. Lindor and Santana both had streaks end in hitless performances on Thursday night. Lindor’s died at seven, while Santana’s stopped at five. Haase was 0-for-4 in his season debut, taking the hat trick with three strikeouts against Rays pitching.

Yarbrough was recalled from Triple-A Durham prior to the game and took the roster spot of former Indians prospect Yandy Diaz, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left hand contusion (retroactive to May 20).

The Rays and Indians will get right back to work on Friday night in an intriguing pitching matchup. Cleveland will call on right-hander Shane Bieber (3-2, 3.22 ERA), while Tampa will send out reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell (3-4, 3.31). Bieber is coming off of a 15-strikeout complete game shutout over Baltimore on Sunday. The left-hander Snell struck out 21 Yankees over his last two starts, allowing three runs on ten hits with three walks in a span of 11 2/3 innings, but taking a loss and a no-decision to New York in those ball games.

Game two from downtown Cleveland is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET first pitch on Friday.

Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire (via Getty Images)

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