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Rays fall, but Chirinos making rotation case

April 11, 2018

CHICAGO -- Runs were hard to come by for both clubs at Guaranteed Rate Field on Wednesday afternoon. Though the White Sox threatened often, the Rays were able to keep the South Siders off the board for most of the game -- thanks, in large part, to Yonny Chirinos' starting

CHICAGO -- Runs were hard to come by for both clubs at Guaranteed Rate Field on Wednesday afternoon. Though the White Sox threatened often, the Rays were able to keep the South Siders off the board for most of the game -- thanks, in large part, to Yonny Chirinos' starting effort.
However, putting out fires eventually took its toll on the Rays, and the fate of the game was left in Austin Pruitt's hands in the eighth inning. The Rays' reliever didn't execute his 1-1 pitch, and Matt Davidson made him pay with a two-run homer in the eighth to give the White Sox a 2-1 win.
Chirinos, however, led off the Rays' fourth "Bullpen Day" of the season in fine fashion. The right-hander threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, permitting four hits and a walk while striking out five.

After Avisail Garcia doubled to lead off the sixth, Chirinos retired Jose Abreu on a deep line out to center field that advanced Garcia to third. The Rays led 1-0 at the time, giving Rays manager Kevin Cash a decision: stay with Chirinos, or turn to a reliever?
"We were pretty taxed in the bullpen," Cash said. "At that point of the game, we really needed a strikeout. We had two options. Keep Chirinos out there, even though he was at his [pitch] limit, and hope for a ground ball. Or bet on [Jose Alvarado] to get the strikeout."
Cash went with Alvarado, and the left-hander escaped the jam by striking out Davidson and, after a walk, retiring Yolmer Sanchez on a groundout.

Cash again had to handle a high-leverage situation in the seventh.
Alvarado struck out Tim Anderson, then Mallex Smith dropped Omar Narvaez's routine fly ball to left. Making matters worse, Smith followed with a throwing error that allowed Narvaez to reach third. Cash turned to Chaz Roe this time.
After hitting pinch-hitter Leury Garcia, Roe got ahead 0-2 to Yoan Moncada. After receiving strike two, catcher Jesus Sucre rose and threw a strike to third base to pick off Narvaez. Roe then struck out Moncada.

Ultimately, those two successes were the link to Pruitt, who failed to get the job done in the eighth, surrendering Davidson's fifth home run of the season.
"Just left a changeup up over the plate and he hit it," Pruitt said.

Davidson said afterward that he'd been coming up in some big spots and had not produced.
"I think that's kind of been the theme of the homestand," Davidson said. "We got in positions to capitalize, and we just didn't do it. So I think we've all been pretty frustrated. And to come up like that and win the game, it's huge."
The Rays are now 3-9 on the season, so finding a silver lining in any loss is difficult. But Chirinos has brought a glimmer of hope the team is headed in the right direction.
"He's been outstanding here early on in the season," Cash said. "Talented young pitcher. He does it a different way than other guys on our staff, with the sinker, pounds the ball on the ground quite a bit. I'm really excited about how he's performed."
Cash said they will not yet make a decision on whether Chirinos will be inserted into the rotation. But for all intents and purposes, he's already there. And the youngster, who extended his scoreless streak to 14 1/3 innings on Wednesday afternoon, is ready to make the move.
"I've been a starter for most of my career," Chirinos said. "I'm just fortunate enough to have been able to start and to let them know I'm most comfortable being a starter."
Cron ends drought: After the Rays stranded six runners over the first three innings, C.J. Cron lined a two-out RBI double over the head of White Sox center fielder Adam Engel to snap a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. The hit came after White Sox starter James Shields had pitched out of jams in both the first and second innings.

Pickoff move: After Narvaez reached third on the pair of errors by Smith in the seventh inning, Sucre picked him off third base after he had wandered dangerously far off of the bag. The White Sox also failed to score a runner from third with less than two outs in in the sixth inning.
Afterward, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said the White Sox had a play on in which Moncada was to lay down a bunt to score Narvaez from third, but "pulled back" when he saw Narvaez coming.
"Everybody has an assignment and his is to complete that," Renteria said. "If the runner from third isn't doing what he's supposed to we'll take care of that later. He still has to do his job. He understands, he knew."
"I dropped it. Just dropped it. Bad throw." -- Smith, on his dropped fly ball and throwing error

The Rays are 2-6 in one-run games this season.
After Wednesday afternoon's game, the Rays optioned right-hander Ryan Weber to Triple-A Durham. On Friday, they plan to select outfielder Johnny Field from Durham. That will require a corresponding 40-man roster move, which likely will not be announced until Friday.
In the fourth inning, Anderson reached base with two outs after singling to right field. With Narvaez batting, Chirinos threw over to first to check on Anderson. First-base umpire Cory Blaser ruled Anderson safe, but the Rays challenged and the replay conclusively showed him out. After a review of 1 minute and 16 seconds, the call was overturned and the fourth inning ended.

The Rays begin a nine-game homestand Friday night against the Phillies in a 7:10 ET contest at Tropicana Field. Right-hander Jake Faria will get the start after getting roughed up by the Red Sox on Saturday, when they tagged him for eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005.