Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays rally in ninth to defeat Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — For eight innings Wednesday afternoon against Detroit ace Justin Verlander, the Rays didn't have much of anything, just a walk and a meager fifth-inning single on their way to what looked liked a certain defeat.

But by the end of the ninth inning, they had something special, an inspiring come-from-behind 4-2 victory over the Tigers that could become a signature moment in their season of great expectations.

"We're fighters until the end, that's what we're all about," starter James Shields said. "It's really good to see those signs early in the season this year. We didn't see that last year early in the season. Now we know what kind of team we have. We're going to fight one through nine. And that's good."

Realistically, they didn't show much fight early. Verlander, last year's Cy Young and MVP award winner, was in dazzling form, with only the two baserunners marring perfection, throwing just 81 pitches to get the first 24 outs. Despite a solid outing from Shields, the Rays' 2-0 deficit seemed huge.

"It's pretty easy," third baseman Evan Longoria said, "to just kind of roll over and die in that situation."

But not these Rays, at least not this day. They started the ninth with a pinch-hit single by Jeff Keppinger — on a curveball that buckled his knees — and ended up scoring four times, sending 10 to the plate in a sequence of can-you-top-this at-bats, chasing Verlander while pinning him with his first regular-season loss since July 15, a span of 14 starts.

"That's huge. That's a big comeback," Keppinger said. "He was cruising all game. He was going to throw the complete game right there and put us away. And he ended up losing the game."

Verlander was a co-conspirator, abandoning his off-speed pitches and going to pure heat in the ninth. While the 99 and 100 mph on the stadium board were impressive, especially for the ninth inning, they weren't nearly as effective, and the resulting loss of command worked to the Rays' advantage, including a wild pitch that scored their first run.

"I lost a little bit of my consistency that I had all day," Verlander said. "It's inexcusable. This loss rests solely on my shoulders today."

Several Rays put it there.

Keppinger's hit, on a 1-and-2 pitch, was key, since it gave them hope. "If he doesn't get on right there, I think ballgame is over," manager Joe Maddon said.

An out later, Desmond Jennings was next to deliver, fighting off a 100-mph fastball with a single to right that sent Keppinger to third. "The biggest hit in that whole inning," Ben Zobrist said.

Then Carlos Peña had a key at-bat, working back from 1-and-2 to draw a walk that ended with the wild pitch. And Longoria, singling in Jennings with the tying run and ending Verlander's day.

Next? How about Elliot Johnson, coming off the bench to face lefty Daniel Schlereth, falling behind 0-and-2 and drawing a walk to load the bases. The Tigers turned to closer Jose Valverde, and that didn't work either as Zobrist singled in two more.

"Phenomenal at-bats all the way through the lineup that last inning," Zobrist said.

But a win like this, which improved the Rays to 4-1, best in franchise history, is made of more than that.

"I think there's a confidence," said Maddon, admitting his thoughts drifted to last season's Game 162 comeback. "Once you've won, then you're confident that you can win again. Once you've been there, you feel you can get back there again. Before you've ever (played) as well as we have over the last couple of years, it's hard to imagine beating Verlander in the ninth inning the way we did today. It's almost impossible to imagine that."

"I like the word heart," Zobrist said. "Because it says a lot about all those things put together — determination, perseverance, just a not-give-up attitude. … We're going to do what we can do. This team, we just seem to have a lot of heart."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]bay.com.

Comeback kings

Five games into the season, the Rays have rallied in the ninth to topple two of the game's best pitchers, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and Tigers ace Justin Verlander.

FRIDAY

Down 6-5, with Rivera 60-of-61 in saves against them, they tie it on Ben Zobrist's triple then, after loading the bases, win it on Carlos Peña's one-out walkoff single.

WEDNESDAY

Down 2-0 and held to one hit, they rally for four runs, with four of five hitters reaching off Verlander (three hits and a walk) then Zobrist delivering a two-run single.

Comments
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

UPDATE, 10:30: In addition to the Cardinals, the Rockies and Mets are considered hot in pursuit of Rays closer Alex Colome. …. Keep hearing the Angels as a potential landing spot for 3B Evan Longoria if the Rays deal him. … Rays manager K...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays manager Kevin Cash on trade speculation, bullpen staffing, Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton

Rays manager Kevin Cash on trade speculation, bullpen staffing, Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton

Rays manager Kevin Cash was first up in the media room at the winter meetings today and here are a few up the more interesting things he said:* On trade speculation regarding their veterans such as Chris Archer and Evan Longoria: "I know there is a l...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays cornerstone Evan Longoria “somewhere in limbo” due to trade speculation

Tampa Bay Rays cornerstone Evan Longoria “somewhere in limbo” due to trade speculation

Franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria considers his future with the Rays "somewhere in limbo" based on speculation he could be traded as part of a cost-cutting and rebuilding movement."I don't know what to think, really,'' Longoria told the Tampa Ba...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Uncertain with all the talk about potentially rebuilding if the Rays would go as far as trading franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria?So is he."I don’t know what to think, really,’’ Longoria said via text message Sunday night as t...
Updated: 5 hours ago
AL East life gets even tougher for Rays with Yankees acquiring slugger Giancarlo Stanton from Marlins

AL East life gets even tougher for Rays with Yankees acquiring slugger Giancarlo Stanton from Marlins

The Marlins apparently found a trade to Giancarlo Stanton's liking, reportedly striking a deal early Saturday to send the slugging outfielder to the Yankees.That's bad news for the Rays and the other AL East teams, who will now have to face Stanton &...
Published: 12/09/17
Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed takes part in event supporting fight against ALS

Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed takes part in event supporting fight against ALS

Tampa Bay Rays radio broadcaster Andy Freed was up early Saturday to meet up with the Bladerunners team in Clearwater at the ALS Association Florida Chapter's annual Ride, Run, Roll to Defeat ALS, supporting Mike Leist, a former history teacher at St...
Published: 12/09/17
Winter Meetings Preview: Ranking the Rays most likely to be dealt

Winter Meetings Preview: Ranking the Rays most likely to be dealt

Rays officials head to Disney for this week’s winter meetings admitting they don’t know what they’re doing. Wait — that’s not exactly right. It’s more that they don’t know what they’re going to do.Having spent months collecting info and discussing op...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/09/17
Dwight Gooden dons Santa suit, but scene is hardly festive

Dwight Gooden dons Santa suit, but scene is hardly festive

NEW YORK — In one sense, there was nothing unusual about what Dwight Gooden was doing Tuesday night. In the spirit of the holiday season, he had been summoned to dress like Santa Claus and, as a result, was decked out in a red suit and hat, a curly w...
Published: 12/08/17

Rays sue outgoing concessionaire over "sad history" of failures

The Tampa Bay Rays sued outgoing concessionaire Centerplate in U.S. District Court on Friday, alleging the company harmed the team’s reputation, damaged its facilities and did not pay a fair share of revenue as part of a "sad history of failing to fu...
Published: 12/08/17
Ohtani makes surprising decision in picking Angels; will face Rays in July at the Trop

Ohtani makes surprising decision in picking Angels; will face Rays in July at the Trop

Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani decided on his team Friday, and it was something of a surprise as he opted to sign with the Angels.The Mariners and Padres had emerged as the favorites from the seven teams that were chosen, from the full fiel...
Published: 12/08/17