NEW YORK — The Rays were able to beat Gerrit Cole on Thursday without their not-so-secret weapon, Ji-Man Choi, and his .476 average and four homers against the Yankees ace.
But the Rays are likely to be without their hot-hitting first baseman for a while. The left groin tightness that kept Choi out of the lineup seems likely to land him back on the injured list.
Manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday afternoon’s game that they hoped a full day of treatment would allow Choi to be available off the bench. He sounded much more pessimistic afterward.
“I don’t think that he necessarily felt that great today,” Cash said. “We were hoping for a little bit better turnaround throughout the game with getting treatment. I’m sure we’ll have an update by (Friday).”
Choi missed the first six weeks of the season recovering from arthroscopic right knee surgery and made an immediate impact upon his return as one of the few patient hitters in the lineup. In 15 games, he was hitting .304 with two homers, 11 RBIs, 11 walks and a .970 OPS, though he needed some occasional time off to deal with soreness.
Cash speculated that the knee issue could have led to the groin injury, which surfaced in Wednesday’s game. “He’s dealing with the knee to some extent and when you favor one thing, it leads to another,” he said.
If Choi does end up on the injured list, Yandy Diaz likely will get the bulk of time at first base, with Mike Brosseau another option, though he also is right-handed. They could call up Kevin Padlo, another right-handed hitter, or opt to add another pitcher.
A lump of Cole
As dominant as Cole has been against everyone else, the Rays have had some success — at least in the regular season. Thursday was the 10th time Cole started against them, and the fifth time they pinned him with a loss. His May 12 win at Tropicana Field was his first against the Rays (though he has beaten them three times in the playoffs.)
Held to three runs in each of the previous three games, and going a concerning 3-for-31 with runners in scoring position, the Rays chased Cole after five inning by scoring five runs (matching the most he has allowed all season) on their way to nine.
They got two in the fourth when Brandon Lowe walked and Austin Meadows hit his team-high 14th homer. Then they got three in the fifth, with Lowe and Diaz getting the big hits. “Cole certainly looked like himself,” Cash said. “He had really good stuff, but our guys had good at-bats, really good at-bats, and kind of pieced it together with big hit after big hit.”
All-Star ballots were revealed Thursday, with initial voting (through mlb.com, team websites, the MLB app and Google.com search) through June 24, then a new round for the finalists. The Rays, who had to adjust their submission after the May 21 trade of shortstop Willy Adames, have these candidates: Choi, first base; Lowe, second; Diaz, third; Joey Wendle, shortstop; Mike Zunino, catcher; Meadows, DH; Randy Arozarena, Kevin Kiermaier and Manuel Margot, outfield.
Lefty Josh Fleming will start, rather than work behind an opener, on Friday at Texas. ... Triple-A Durham pitcher Tyler Zombro was struck in the head by a line drive Thursday and taken off the field; the game was suspended.
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