Playing for the second time in four days, the Atlanta Braves and the Tampa Bay Rays faced off in North Port on Tuesday afternoon. With overcast skies and a breeze fluttering through Cool Today Park, the Rays topped the Braves in a 5-2 victory.
Both teams struggled at the plate early on, not finding any type of groove until the sixth inning. Tampa Bay took the early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning. A single from veteran center-fielder Kevin Kiermaier that got lost in the sun for Braves center-fielder Ender Inciarte started the Rays off strong. Designated hitter Yandy Diaz followed with a single and third-baseman Nate Lowe hit a sacrifice fly to score a run. The next run by either team would not come until five innings later.
From the Mound:
Each team extended their bullpen with the Rays pitching seven different players and the Braves with six. Rays non-roster invite Josh Fleming got the start. Fleming pitched two innings and allowed two hits, no runs and had two strikeouts.
Right-handed pitcher Felix Hernandez got the starting nod for the Braves. The Braves newcomer pitched four innings in his third outing this spring. Coming off a nagging shoulder injuries in his time with the Mariners, the 33- year-old brought some of his best stuff with him to the mound today locating both his changeup and fastball well.
“I feel really really healthy, I can’t complain,” Hernandez said. The righty confirmed he feels good and is ready to go for the Braves.
With retirement rumors swirling and speculation around his career, Hernandez isn’t out to prove anyone right or wrong.
“I don’t have to prove anything, I do what I do and just go out there and compete,” he said. Hernandez, given that he remains healthy, could be one to shift into the Braves starting lineup with opening day just around the corner.
Rays right-handed pitcher Aaron Slegers notched the win in Tuesday’s game, pitching 1.1 innings, allowing one hit and one run. Also to note, former Gators Darren O’Day came in relief for Hernandez, but only pitched one inning.
Behind the Plate:
The excitement at the plate didn’t ramp up until the sixth inning when Braves designated hitter Austin Riley launched a two-run home-run to put the Braves in front 2-1.
“That ball was scorched,” Manager Brian Snitker said. ” I really like where he is at and the focus he has put into it, I think he is doing really good.”
Riley, who got called up to the big league last year, is currently in a position battle with Johan Camargo for the job at third.
The Rays rallied in the eighth inning. Stringing together four back-to-back singles from left-fielder Miles Mastrobuoni, designated hitter Rene Pinto, third-baseman Tristian Gray and catcher Chris Herrmann. All four hitters are non-roster invites subbed in late into the game. Tampa Bay put up the four runs in the eighth to seal the game at 5-2.
Next up, the Braves will travel to Bradenton to face the Pittsburg Pirates for the first time and the Rays will return home to Port Charlotte to face the Toronto Blue Jays.