As the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox converged on Houston, it wasn’t hard to pick up on a trend: The Tampa Bay Rays were game for getting out of Minute Maid Park on Saturday night, having returned to the field following a day off on Friday.
This was a problem in 2016, when, with an 18-23 record after the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the Rays embarked on a five-game stretch against Houston, Texas, Boston and Oakland. But Tampa Bay emerged with a win in all five matchups, allowing the team to climb to 43-36 at the end of the week.
This year has been a bit more complicated. In their first week after the trade deadline, the Rays dropped three of four games in front of their vaunted late-season showdown series with the Red Sox. Their power surge, fueled by the addition of Johnny Hellweg and Chris Archer, fell off a bit, too. But after consecutive wins in Detroit, Tampa Bay won in Miami on Friday night, and then made it two in a row with a 6-3 win over Cleveland on Saturday.
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Brad Miller led off with a home run and continued to terrorize Trevor Bauer. Miller became the seventh Tampa Bay player to ever hit two home runs in a postseason game, according to Elias Sports Bureau (Philadelphia’s Jim Thome is the only other player with more), and he set the postseason record for home runs by a shortstop in the process. His fifth and sixth homers of the series — the latter coming with two outs in the eighth — both drew cheers from the SunTrust Park crowd.
“I was just kind of getting ahead of him a little bit, I wanted to throw a low slider because I thought he was swinging, but he battled back a little bit,” Bauer said. “I threw a changeup down and away, and that’s the pitch I want to throw for my first strike to Miller.”
But Bauer couldn’t record an out. A Ramirez single, a double by Carlos Santana and a wild pitch from Chris Archer meant a two-out RBI walk to Francisco Lindor. That, by the way, was the eighth base runner of the inning for the Indians.
It was 2-1 Cleveland after two innings, 3-1 before the big solo home run by Miller in the third. Lindor singled again in the fourth, and when Bauer struggled with his command again, Mike Napoli led off the fifth with a single and touched home on a double by Jason Kipnis.
The Royals headed to Houston for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday night. The Giants host the Dodgers in Game 3 on Sunday.
And again Tampa Bay?