Tampa Bay rocked three more home runs off of Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco as the Rays rolled to a 6-2 win on Saturday afternoon.
Both clubs had to endure a nearly three-hour long rain delay prior to first pitch on Saturday, but the Rays bats came out ready to play ball while the Indians offense remained unproductive to follow a season-long trend. The Rays got stellar pitching from Charlie Morton, who limited the Indians to just one run on three hits with ten strikeouts over six innings in his longest start (in terms of pitches thrown) this season. Carrasco was locked in at times, but the Rays found him three times with the long ball to change the outcome of the game.
Morton is on a long winning streak, dating back to August of last season.
Each team traded off runs in the second inning after 1-2-3 firsts. Back-to-back hits for the Rays off of Carrasco put them on the board as Avisail Garcia singled to left-center and Brandon Lowe doubled him home with a drive deep to center. Tampa left Lowe at third after a sacrifice as Kevin Kiermaier struck out swinging before a groundout by Travis d’Arnaud. The Indians manufactured their response off of Morton starting with a leadoff walk by former Ray Jake Bauers. Jose Ramirez moved him to third with a single to right-center. Jordan Luplow grounded back to the mound, moving Ramirez to second, and Leonys Martin dropped in a single to left to tie the game at one. With runners on the corners and just one out, Roberto Perez lined out to third before Greg Allen struck out swinging.
Carrasco had to work out of jams to get through the next couple of innings. In the third, he got a double play grounder off of the bat of Tommy Pham to erase Austin Meadows’ one-out single. In the fourth, Tampa loaded the bases with one out as Garcia singled to left and stole second before being joined on base by a walk by Lowe and a single to right by Willy Adames. With his back against the wall, Carrasco struck out the next two, getting Kiermaier and d’Arnaud swinging.
The Rays took the lead back in the top of the fifth after two easy innings of work from Morton. Carrasco retired the first two batters of the inning on grounders to second before Pham singled to left. Ji-Man Choi tipped the score in the Rays’ favor as he lofted a 2-1 pitch high the opposite way down the left field line and just over the wall for a two-run home run, putting Tampa up 3-1.
Morton allowed a walk in the bottom of the inning before the Rays got him another run. Lowe, leading off the sixth, drove a 1-0 changeup down the heart of the plate over the wall in right-center for his 11th homer of the season while extending the Rays lead to 4-1.
Cleveland wasted an opportunity in the bottom of the inning. Carlos Santana doubled to left with one out and moved to third on a groundout by Bauers. With a chance to cut the deficit to two, Ramirez struck out looking in a bad at bat to strand a key runner at third.
As is often the case after stranding runners in scoring position, the missed runs proved costly for the Tribe. Carrasco returned to the mound for the seventh, but Daniel Robertson reached safely on an error by Francisco Lindor to start the inning. Meadows lined out to center for the first out, but Pham clobbered a backbreaking two-run shot to center to put the Rays up by a 6-1 edge. Josh Smith came on in relief in his Major League debut and gave up a single to Choi before retiring the next two batters, including his first big league strikeout of Lowe to end the frame. Smith allowed two hits the following inning, but added two more Ks to his tally.
Casey Sadler worked the seventh and eighth in relief of Morton with a significant lead. He walked Perez with two outs in his first inning of work before getting Allen to pop out. In the eighth, he retired the first two before Santana drove his ninth homer of the season over the wall in center to make it a 6-2 game.
Dan Otero left the deficit at four with a perfect ninth for the Tribe, but the bats could not put up a last ditch rally against Diego Castillo with their final three outs. Ramirez struck out swinging and Luplow grounded to short before Martin kept the game alive with a single to left. Perez was cut down swinging on a cutter to end the contest.
The Rays improved to 30-19 on the season and an impressive 17-8 on the road. The Indians fell to 26-25 and are losers of five of their last six.
MORTON KEEPS WINNING
Morton has not lost a contest since August 11 in a home start for the Houston Astros against the Seattle Mariners. Even in defeat, he gave the Astros a quality start that day, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings of work. He appeared in seven more games for Houston before the close of last season, winning three.
Morton worked six quality innings, allowing a run on three hits with a pair of walks and ten strikeouts. With his win over the Tribe on Saturday, Morton moved to 5-0 on the year in eleven starts with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.
Francona was ejected from the game by third base umpire Eric Cooper in the bottom of the sixth, his first ejection since September 4, 2016. Ramirez had attempted a bunt and appeared to pull the bat back before being hit in the back leg by the pitch. The home plate umpire ruled that Ramirez’s actions constituted a swing attempt and Francona objected.
The ejection was the 43rd of Francona’s managerial career, tying him for 27th place all-time with Tom Lasorda, Gene Mauch, and Bobby Valentine.
Francona is sixth on the active managers list for career ejections.
CARRASCO CRUSHED BY LONG BALL
Carrasco was great for stretches and bad in others as the long ball once again proved to be his undoing. He was able to work out of some jams in the early innings, but the Rays parked three balls over the fences to give road clubs 19 in the first 10 games of the Indians’ homestand.
Carrasco worked six and one-third innings before turning the game over to the bullpen, allowing six runs (five earned) on nine hits with a walk and six strikeouts. He dropped to 4-5 in defeat.
GO AWAY, RAIN
First pitch between Tampa and Cleveland was delayed two hours and 48 minutes on Saturday. The anticipated first pitch of 4:10 PM was pushed back until 6:58 PM as an anticipated storm never really hit the area.
DO THE ROSTER SHUFFLE
Prior to the game, the Indians made a pair of roster moves. Outfielder Greg Allen was recalled from Triple-A Columbus and the contract of left-handed reliever Josh Smith was purchased from the team’s top farm affiliate. In a corresponding move, starting pitcher Adam Plutko and catcher Eric Haase were optioned to Columbus.
The Indians will look for the series split and a 5-6 homestand in the finale with the Rays on Sunday afternoon. The Rays will use an opener, expected to be right-hander Ryne Stanek (0-1, 3.38 ERA), while the Indians will send out righty Trevor Bauer (4-3, 3.95).
First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images