Rays get second wind, put Rockies on ice in comeback at chilly Coors

April 7th, 2024

DENVER -- For six innings, it was shaping up to be an all-around miserable Saturday night for the Rays.

Fresh off losing on a walk-off grand slam that erased their ninth-inning comeback bid on Friday afternoon, the Rays were shut down by Rockies starter Ryan Feltner and entered the seventh trailing by five runs. And it was a bitterly cold and windy night at Coors Field, with the wind chill dipping into the low 30s and strong gusts turning every fly ball and popup into a guessing game.

Then the Rays came back again. This time, they finished the job.

Tampa Bay chipped away at Colorado’s lead in the seventh and rallied for five runs with two outs in the eighth to pull ahead. After giving up big home runs on Friday, setup men Jason Adam and Colin Poche shut the door to seal the Rays’ 8-6 win.

“Impressive,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve got an impressive group in there, for sure.”

Early on, the Rays struggled just as much with Feltner as they did with the elements. The right-hander struck out a career-high 10 batters, the Rockies’ first double-digit strikeout performance since Aug. 21, 2021, and permitted just one run on two hits over six innings. Meanwhile, Rays starter Tyler Alexander gave up four runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings and reliever Chris Devenski surrendered a two-run homer to Brenton Doyle in the sixth.

At that point, the Rays were just trying to stay warm. As the wind swirled around the ballpark, relievers fought for space around the heater in the bullpen. Infielders wore out their hand warmers; Yandy Díaz said he put them all over his body. Outfielders stuffed their hands into quarterback-style pouches and, during one pitching change, sought shelter in Tampa Bay’s bullpen.

“It's not comfortable for hitters. I honestly don't think it was comfortable for pitchers, either,” Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “It was really cold out there.”

Then, all of a sudden, their bats got hot.

Catcher Ben Rortvedt doubled in two runs against reliever Jake Bird in the seventh inning, pulling Tampa Bay within three runs. Right fielder Richie Palacios saved a run with a spectacular catch to end the seventh, running and doing his best to read the wind as he robbed Ezequiel Tovar of an extra-base hit.

Turns out, they were just getting started.

“We’ve got some dawgs in here, guys that are just grinders. We just grind through those ABs,” Palacios said. “We were able to put some good swings together, put some walks together and definitely grind out a win.”

After Brandon Lowe popped out and Randy Arozarena grounded out, Isaac Paredes kick-started their big eighth-inning rally by homering to left field off reliever Tyler Kinley. Palacios singled and scored on a double by Harold Ramírez. Amed Rosario hit a game-tying single off former Rays reliever Jalen Beeks, then Rortvedt and Jose Siri walked to load the bases.

“Everyone up there was a tough out, tough at-bat, and they were just passing it to the next guy,” Poche said. “Everyone contributed, which was just really cool to see. … Just a really good team win, overall.”

In came closer Justin Lawrence, and up came Yandy Díaz. Tampa Bay’s leadoff man smoked a ground ball that took a wild hop past first baseman Michael Toglia and sailed into right field for a go-ahead, two-run single.

“I was just trying to hit the ball hard, wherever it was. Honestly, I thought he was going to get it,” Díaz said. “It must have hit a little rock or something, and it gave me a nice little bounce there.”

Adam, who gave up McMahon’s walk-off slam on Friday, bounced back with a perfect eighth inning. Closer Pete Fairbanks was unavailable in the ninth after struggling with his control (and his grip of the baseball) while walking all three batters he faced Friday.

So the Rays opted for the lefty Poche, whose fastball velocity was down 3 mph in the series opener, to secure their first save of the season.

“There wasn't even a thought to go to somebody else. It was pretty easy. Pete was down,” Cash said. “Poche, he's been there and done it a lot.”

After watching video of his last outing and making an adjustment with his hands, Poche worked a clean ninth and avoided any further drama in what has already been an eventful series.

“Anytime you get one like that, you kind of want to get that taste out of your mouth,” Poche said. “Maybe you prefer better conditions than what it was out there, but that inning probably felt as good as any in recent memory.”