On record-setting night, patience pays off for Rays

August 6th, 2022

DETROIT -- The number was so unusual, so large, it caught Rays shortstop Taylor Walls off guard.

“How many walks?” he asked reporters at his locker in the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park.

Thirteen. As in: The Rays worked 13 walks on Friday night, a franchise record, displaying patience that was eventually rewarded in a 5-3 win over the Tigers.

“I didn't realize it was that many,” said Walls, who drew three of Tampa Bay’s 13 free passes. “It kind of seemed like everybody was kind of locked in today, seeing the ball well, taking quality pitches and turning good at-bats into having good at-bats after that.”

Friday’s walk-a-thon broke the Rays’ previous franchise record of 12, which was set during an 11-inning game against the Marlins on June 19, 2010. It was the highest single-game total for any team in the Majors this season and the most since the Yankees worked 14 in a loss to the Astros last July.

Early on, though, the Rays struggled to capitalize on the opportunities freely given by the Tigers pitching staff. Tampa Bay managed 10 walks but only two runs through seven innings and entered the eighth trailing, 3-2.

But in the eighth, their walks turned into runs.

After Roman Quinn and Walls walked against reliever Joe Jiménez to tie the club’s nine-inning and single-game records, the Rays took advantage. With two on and nobody out, Brandon Lowe laced a go-ahead double to right field. Isaac Paredes then smacked an RBI single to right, providing an insurance run against his former Tigers teammates as the Rays rolled to their third straight win.

“You give us that many chances, that many free baserunners, eventually we're going to take advantage of it,” said reliever , who pitched around a walk and a single to secure his seventh save. “They did, in a big way, and that's a big comeback win for us. I give a lot of credit to the offense for the way they stuck to it.”

Indeed, it was initially shaping up to be a frustrating night for the Rays.

Right-hander gave up three runs in the first two innings then shut down the Tigers by retiring 13 of the final 14 hitters he faced. Yet he left after six innings with the Rays down by a run.

The Rays drew two walks in the first inning, three in the second, one in the fourth, three in the fifth and one in the seventh … but scored only twice, despite the baffling wildness of Detroit’s pitchers, on a fifth-inning David Peralta RBI double and an RBI single from Lowe in the sixth.

Tigers starter Bryan Garcia walked six and gave up one hit in his four innings, but somehow didn’t permit a run. The Rays left the bases loaded in the second and the fifth and stranded 13 runners on the night, threatening to stall whatever momentum they’d created by winning the previous two days.

But there was little concern in Tampa Bay’s dugout.

“If you're putting on two or three baserunners every inning, odds are eventually it's going to result in runs,” Kluber said. “Keeping that approach of keeping the pressure on them and trying to get as many baserunners as possible is going to, more often than not, result in runs.”

Eventually, it did. And while Lowe came through with yet another big hit, he credited Quinn and Walls for letting him see a lot of pitches from Jiménez as they worked their walks.

“I think that really shows we're stepping in the right direction. No one's out there trying to do too much or trying to hit a six-run home run,” said Lowe, who drove in three runs for the second straight night. “It seems like we're out there taking our at-bats. We're taking our team at-bats and we're letting the numbers kind of take care of themselves.”

The Rays have dealt with some maddeningly inconsistent offensive stretches this season, but this game didn’t look like anything from those slumps. They were grinding out disciplined at-bats, getting on base and hitting balls hard, all markers of a good approach at the plate.

First came the walks. Then, the runs.

“I think we've seen that, [at] different parts of the season where that discipline wasn't there, they're trying to do too much. We've seen it maybe on the bases at times as well,” manager Kevin Cash said. “So it was really good that there was a lot of discipline.”