The Game: The Tampa Bay Rays gave up a four run lead midway through the game as they fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 on Monday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park. The Rays were highlighted by Manny Ramirez and Ben Zobrist who were both 2 for 2 and Jeff Niemann pitched a no-hit inning in his first start of the spring. But it was the five runs given up by Mike Ekstrom in the fourth inning that was the turning point of the game.
The Rays jumped out to an early lead in the top of the second inning. Manny Ramirez and Ben Zobrist opened up the inning with back to back singles. Ramirez moved to third when BJ Upton hit into a double play. Then a wild pitch by Bryan Morris sent Ramirez towards home, sliding in under the tag to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
The Rays strike again an inning later. Reid Brignac doubled to left with one out to put a runner in scoring position. Johnny Damon then singled on a line drive to right, scoring Brignac. Evan Longoria followed with another single, moving Damon to second with two outs. Then Ramirez picked up his second hit of the game, an RBI single to score Damon and move Longoria to third. Longoria would later score on an RBI double by Zobrist to give the Rays a 4-0 lead.
But then in the top of the fourth inning, the wind was taken out of the Rays sails as the Pirates tagged Ekstrom for five runs in the inning. Neil Walker singled to left to put a runner on the bases. Then Walker moved to third on a double by Matt Diaz. Josh Fields drove home a run with a single to the mound, scoring Walker. Garrett Atkins cleared the bases with a three run homer to left field. Alex Presley drew a walk and made it all the way around the bases to score without a hit being recorded thanks to a stolen base and two wild pitches. When the inning was finally over, eighth batters later, the Pirates led 5-4.
The Rays battled back to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning. Desmond Jennings drew a one out walk to put a runner on the bases. Justin Ruggiano drove him home with an RBI double to center to tie the game 5-5.
The Pirates took the lead back for good an inning late. Chris Snyder scored on a wild pitch by Jake McGee to give the Pirates the lead. The Rays could not strike for another run and took the 6-5 loss.
The Rays pitching staff combined for seven strikeouts on the day. Jeff Niemann, Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Cory Wade, Cesar Ramos, Dane De La Rosa and Alex Cobb all provided no-hit performances on the mound. Ekstrom allowed 5 runs on 4 hits in 2/3 of an inning. McGee allowed 1 unearned run on 2 hits to suffer the loss.
RP Top Prospect Watch:
Alex Cobb: pitched a no-hit inning with 1 strikeout.
Desmond Jennings: 0 for 1 with a walk and a run scored.
Jake McGee: allowed an unearned run on 2 hits with a wild pitch.
A Look Ahead: The Rays (1-2) travel to Ed Smith Stadium to face the Baltimore Orioles (1-0) on Tuesday. Andy Sonnanstine (0-0) will start for the Rays against Jeremy Guthrie (0-0) for the Orioles. Dirk Hayhurst. Chris Archer, Matt Bush, Rob Delaney, Mike Ekstrom and Cesar Cabral will be available to pitch for the Rays. Evan Longoria, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez and BJ Upton are also scheduled to make the road trip as well.