Rays win Spring Training opener 9-5 over Pirates

The Rays' Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the seventh with a double and moved to third base on Elliot Johnson’s sacrifice bunt. Desmond Jennings and Tim Beckham both walked to load the bases. Robinson Chirinos scalded a two-out double down the third baseline to pick up 3 RBIs and give the Rays the lead.

After the Pirates scored in the top of the inning, Tampa Bay’s B squad continued to pour it on in the eighth, beginning with a lead-off double from Felipe Lopez. Lopez moved to third on Guyer’s ground out to second and scored when Johnson reached on an error to third. Jennings walked, Beckham picked up the first of three consecutive RBI-singles for the Rays, the last of which by Chirinos for his fourth RBI, bringing the entire lineup to the plate.

The Pirates made a bid in the top of the ninth. Garret Jones led off with a walk and moved to second base on a passed ball; he scored on a ground-rule double by Garrett Atkins, who moved to third on another passed ball by Chirinos and scored as Doumit grounded to second. Dusty Brown got on base with a single, Pedro Ciriaco and Alex Presley walked and just like that, the bases were loaded and it was now a save situation. Rays reliever Brandon Gomes struck out Josh Rodriguez to end the game.

Overall, a good game. Several Rays pitchers had strong showings, including Matt Bush, Dirk Hayhurst and Rob Delaney, who got the win. It’s a bit early to start drawing any serious conclusions, but I think all the negativity from the postseason departures is a bit overblown. This Rays team will be competitive in baseball toughest division, the good ol’ A.L. East.

The Tampa Bay Rays started Spring Training off right with a 9-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Port Charlotte. Ace David Price started the game on the hill for the Rays, striking out Jose Tabata to officially start the 2011 Rays campaign. In his one inning pitched, DP yielded a base hit and walked his former college teammate Pedro Alvarez.

Pittsburgh got on the board in the second inning. Lyle Overbay led off with a single off reliever Adam Russell, who then hit DH Ryan Doumit with a pitch. Chris Snyder’s base hit loaded the bags and Overbay scored on Ronny Cedeno’s fielder’s choice. Tabata’s single brought Doumit in to score before Neil Walker grounded into a 6-3 double play.

The Rays were quiet offensively in the early going; after a strong ovation from the crowd, Manny Ramirez started his Rays career with a base hit but was out on B.J. Upton’s 6-4-3 double play. Tampa Bay finally got on the board in the fourth, courtesy of Evan Longoria’s first home run of Spring Training, a shot crushed deep to dead center field. Ramirez, Longoria, Johnny Damon and John Jaso headed to the clubhouse after the fourth. Sean Rodriguez added a long ball in the fifth inning, sending the first pitch he saw into the Pirates bullpen in left field and tying the score. After the fifth, the rest of the line up flipped and the remaining starters went to the clubhouse.

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