For the first ten home games of the 2023 season, the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t need to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning. Friday, they didn’t even waste an out in the inning to strike, as Christian Bethancourt and Brandon Lowe each homered, with the latter’s two-run blast giving Tampa Bay an 8-7 walkoff win over the Chicago White Sox.
Trailing 7-5 and facing Reynaldo Lopez, who is handling closer duties while Liam Hendriks recovers from an offseason cancer diagnosis, Bethancourt wasted little time in getting the Rays back to within a run with a solo homer that just got over the fence in right field, his third home run of the year. Yandy Diaz followed with a base hit to right, and Lowe, on a full count, ended the game by lining a Lopez offering into the seats in right.
BRANDON LOWE WALKS IT OFF!
THE RAYS ARE 11-0 AT HOME! pic.twitter.com/0urW8ofVKM
— Rays Radio (@RaysRadio) April 22, 2023
“It’s another one of those that at bats where I got two strikes. I was like, man, you just got to try to push something in play,” Lowe told Bally Sports Sun‘s Ryan Bass after the game. “You’ve got great hitters behind you. Don’t try to do too much. Get out there and put a barrel on it.”
Friday’s game looked early like it was going to be another easy contest for Tampa Bay, as they took a 4-0 lead over Chicago in the very first inning thanks to a pair of walks issued by starter Michael Kopech coupled with a two-run double by Josh Lowe and a two-run homer by Harold Ramirez. The blast by Ramirez allowed Tampa Bay to tie the mark set by the Seattle Mariners in 2019 of homering in each of the first 20 games to begin a season.
Harold Freaking Ramirez! 2-Run homer!
The Rays have now homered in their first 20 games to tie the record! pic.twitter.com/dApkr87Cat
— Rays Radio (@RaysRadio) April 21, 2023
But Calvin Faucher, who manager Kevin Cash said before the game he hoped to stretch out to as many as four innings Friday, gave most of the lead back in the top of the second, with singles by Oscar Colas, Elvis Andrus, and Andrew Benintendi all bringing in runs to cut the game down to a single run at 4-3.
It would be Jalen Beeks who would allow Chicago to take the lead an inning later, issuing five walks that led to three runs coming across in the frame. Two would score on bases-loaded free passes, while the third run, tallied by Colas, came across on a wild pitch by Cooper Criswell, who took over for Beeks in the inning.
Eloy Jimenez‘s first home run of 2023 in the fourth off Criswell, pushed the White Sox lead to 7-4.
Diaz cut the deficit back to 7-5 in the home half of the fourth with an RBI single that plated Ramirez before the pitching on both sides would settle down. Criswell would work a scoreless fifth and combine with Garrett Cleavinger to do the same in the sixth. Colin Poche would put up a zero in the seventh, and Kevin Kelly (2-0) worked two scoreless innings to finish.
The Rays will look to extend their current winning streak to four straight games and 12 in a row to start the year at home Saturday afternoon as Shane McClanahan (4-0, 1.57 ERA) gets the start against Dylan Cease (2-0, 2.01 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 4:05.