NEW YORK — There was a lot that went into the Rays hanging on to their 3-1, series-clinching win over the Yankees Thursday.
Including the conversation reliever Adam Kolarek had with himself jogging in from the bullpen with the bases loaded and no outs in the ninth and the stadium rocking.
"Honestly I was just telling myself I've been in this situation before, obviously not at this level, and on as big a stage like Yankee Stadium, which of course is one of the ultimates in baseball,'' Kolarek said. "I was really just trying to go through my normal routine and approach it the same way I do every other time.''
Easier said, Kolarek admitted after.
But still done.
The first save of the 29-year-old rookie lefty's career was a huge one, as he cleaned up the mess left by Sergio Romo, who opened the ninth allowing two singles and a walk.
"I knew the stakes were a little higher,'' Kolarek said. "I felt like I did good job taking a step back and appreciating the moment and feeling honored that I was able to be the one to have that opportunity.''
Kolarek retired lefty Greg Bird on a first pitch foul pop, which allowed him to relax a bit, knowing a ground ball could end it. He went a different way, striking out lefty Brett Gardner.
With right-swinging Austin Romine next and RHP Hunter Wood warming, manager Kevin Cash had a tough decision, polling the coaches on the bench and deciding to stick with Kolarek.
"I gave a little peek toward the dugout to make sure no one was coming and when I saw the coast was clear I was really happy,'' Kolarek said.
Even more so when he got Romine swinging at strike three, pumping his fist in a rare show of emotion.
"It was a great feeling,'' said Kolarek, who debuted last season. "Normally the situations for me pop up in the sixth, seventh, eighth and a bigger arm comes in behind me to close it out. To close the door like that, I wanted to be out there with my teammates.''
LHP Blake Snell was going to have a hard time matching the efficiency of his last outing, when he retired all 15 Jays on 47 pitches. But he was nearly as effective Wednesday, allowing two hits and a walk over five shutout innings while throwing 76 as he continues to build up following his DL stint for shoulder fatigue. "I got better, got more comfortable,'' Snell said. "I'm happy with it. Excited to continue to build up the pitch count. Overall I'm in the strike zone a lot, attacking hitters.'' Snell earned his 14th win, most by a Ray since LHP Matt Moore had 17 in 2013. Snell also logged his majors-most matching seventh scoreless start of five or more innings, and fourth with two or fewer hits.
The roof at the Tampa Bay Rays’ proposed ballpark in Ybor City is about the same height at its peak — 230 feet, give or take — as at Tropicana Field, but the similarities end there. https://t.co/U6zanKSaft— Tampa Bay Times (@TB_Times) August 17, 2018
Medical matters: Pham, Sucre, Arroyo
LF Tommy Pham looked as ready as he told Cash he was after playing one rehab game, showing not effects of the fractured right foot or the two weeks off, going 2-for-3 with a long out. "You're not going to hit too many balls as hard as he hit today,'' Cash said. Pham kept it simple: "Just glad to be back.'' … C Jesus Sucre is dealing with a very sore right wrist as the result of a Wednesday check swing, with the Rays likely to decide by Saturday if he will go on the DL. … INF Christian Arroyo was activated off the DL at Triple-A Durham, having been sidelined with a concussion after being on the helmet by a pitch July 29.
.@RaysBaseball outfielder Tommy Pham chats with Michelle Margaux about his return to the field Thursday afternoon and having a big impact in his first game at Yankee Stadium. #RaysUp pic.twitter.com/DukPRjYs7G— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) August 16, 2018
Cash said the decision to send down RHP Jake Faria to make room for Pham was primarily because they have five other pitchers they need innings for, and that with his 4-3, 4.84 record and two-plus months on the DL due to an oblique issue, he could get more needed work at Durham. "It's been a tough year, a trying year for him, but it's not a lost year,'' Cash said. "Where Jake's season has gone, it will be good eventually to get him in an environment where he can get to work.''
Number of the day
Runs scored by the Yankees over two games; the third time this season they were held to one or none in back to back games, second by the Rays.
* Crew chief Jerry Layne said there were two issues on the Giancarlo Stanton ball in the eighth, whether it was a home run as 1B ump Greg Gibson first called, then if it was foul as he thought later, so they turned it over to the replay crew. Cash felt they got it right.
* The Rays made three bad outs on the bases: Jake Bauers caught rounding (but not touching) third, Ji-Man Choi picked off second and Joey Wendle off first.
* OF Mallex Smith stole his AL-leading eighth base of August, 26th of the season.
* Facing three left-handed starters in Boston will be a challenge for the predominantly lefty Rays lineup.