Wild comeback for Rays earns Pruitt 1st big league win
It has not been an easy landing for Rays right-hander Austin Pruitt as he navigated his way through the first three weeks of his first big league season.
He earned his spot on the opening day roster with a dominant spring training, but then allowed at least one run in each of his first six major league appearances.
So, naturally, his first scoreless outing would be his longest and would produce his first career win during one of the wilder games the Rays have played in recent history.
“Today was kind of a crazy game,” Pruitt said. “It feels good to go out there and do as I wanted to do.”
What Pruitt did was slam the door on the Tigers and allow the Rays to rally for an 8-7, walk-off win at Tropicana Field.
“Huge,” centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier called Pruitt’s outing.
Pruitt entered the game in the sixth inning after Danny Farquhar and Jumbo Diaz allowed a 5-4 lead to turn into a 7-5 deficit with an assist to Kiermaier, who whiffed while attempting a diving catch with the bases loaded.
Pruitt pitched the final 3 1/3 innings. He allowed one hit and struck out five. More importantly, he didn’t walk a batter.
“It puts you in the driver’s seat instead of the passenger’s seat,” Pruitt said of throwing strikes.
Meanwhile, the Rays scored a run in the seventh inning and won it with two in the ninth, with both runs coming as the Tigers failed to turn a game-ending double play.
Pruitt, who allowed 10 earned runs in his first 5 2/3 innings this season, lowered his ERA from 15.88 to 10.00.
“I want to say that he’s been snake-bit by some unfortunate luck,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s given up some hard-hit balls. We know this guy is going to be around the plate, and he generally pitches ahead in the count.”
Working ahead allowed Pruitt to work his way through the Tigers order. The lone hit allowed was a one-out single in the ninth by Miguel Cabrera.
“First time facing Miguel Cabrera,” Pruitt said. “That was kind of cool.”
Cabrera’s single didn’t matter since he was erased when Victor Martinez grounded into a double play.
“He had a little rough go-round to start (the season),” Kiermaier said. “That happens sometimes. We knew what he was doing in spring training. He looked great. We knew it was a matter of time when he was going to find his stuff. Hopefully he takes a lot of steps forward with this outing and gains a lot of confident. I know from myself, baseball is easier when you play with confidence.”
All that remained to make it a special night for Pruitt was an unusual ninth inning comeback and the traditional beer shower reserved for pitchers who earn their first big league win.
Most say the beer poured over their head was cold.
So … was it, Austin?
“It was cold,” he said. “It was very cold.”