KANSAS CITY -- It was more of the same for the Rays on Monday night at Kauffman Stadium as Tampa Bay used early offense to take an 8-5 victory in the series opener against the Royals.
It looked as though the Rays were going to be held scoreless in the first inning for the first time during the current road trip, but Ji-Man Choi, who was back in the lineup after missing the previous six games with a left calf issue, drew a two-out walk against Royals starter Brad Keller and came around to score on an RBI single by Yandy Díaz to give the Rays the early 1-0 lead. With the run, the Rays have outscored opponents 29-4 in the opening frame.
The Rays continued their offensive attack in the second inning as Michael Perez delivered with an RBI double to center field and Tommy Pham laced a two-run triple to right-center field to open up the lead to 4-0 against Keller. After the Royals cut the lead to 5-4 in the seventh inning, the Rays’ offense was able to answer back. Kevin Kiermaier and Choi each delivered big RBI hits to give the Rays some added cushion in the late innings.
“We were able to tack on, separate a little more,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “It got a little close there for a couple of innings, but the guys did a good job there tacking on late. It’s nice to have Ji-Man back in the lineup, for sure. We see how important it is for him to sit in the middle of the lineup.”
Stanek and Chirinos solid again
As the Rays’ offense attacked early, the Tampa Bay pitching staff continued to shut the door. Ryne Stanek, who is from the St. Louis area and had many family and friends in attendance, opened the game and pitched a scoreless 1 1/3 innings on Monday. In his seven starts this season, Stanek has yet to allow a run in 10 2/3 innings.
“We were talking on the plane that this was his first time here. Cool for him,” Cash said. “The thought was to get him out of the game, keep him available for the next three, four [games] whatever it is, especially with the cushion we had gotten. But Ryne really does well in that role.”
While Stanek opened the game for the Rays, Yonny Chirinos had another solid outing and improved to 4-0 this season. Chirinos struggled in the third inning after a Daniel Robertson error, but the right-hander was able to bounce back. He struck out four and allowed two earned runs (four total) over 5 2/3 innings.
“You could argue that’s one of his best performances,” Cash said. “We’ve seen in the past when pitchers unravel, they’re not able to right the ship there, and he did. He got on a really nice run, got us deep in the ballgame.”
Over Chirinos’ past 13 appearances, he is 8-0. His last loss was Aug. 17, 2018, at Boston.
It didn’t take long for Nate Lowe to display some of the power that the Rays have raved about over the past year. Lowe went 1-for-4 with a walk in his Major League debut. His eighth-inning double off Royals reliever Scott Barlow had an exit velocity of 113.3 mph, which is the seventh highest by any Rays players this season, according to Statcast.
“It was an impacting double, where he gets on base and then he scores to separate it from one to two runs, so that was huge,” Cash said. “Overall, just the confidence that he showed, and it certainly didn’t appear like it was his first Major League game.”
Lowe had his parents, Wendy and David; his brother Josh, the Rays' first-round Draft pick in 2016; and his agent in attendance for his Major League debut.
“It’s awesome,” Lowe said. “It’s something you definitely dream of for so long. And being able to finally go out there and do it and get a win today and get a hit today and contribute a little bit is pretty awesome.”