Monday, January 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Odorizzi, Rays beat Yankees in series opener

ST. PETERSBURG — This is what the members of the Rays rotation talked about in April and in May and in June, too. That run of strong starts that would carry the team, because this is how it is supposed work around the Rays.

"And it never came," Friday's starter Jake Odorizzi said. "I think since the second half we all kind of changed our tune, I guess. Everything is going well for all the starters, just consistent outings back-to-back-to-back."

Odorizzi stretched the Rays' run of quality starts from starting pitchers to nine Friday with nearly seven innings of shutout ball in what became a 5-1 victory against the Yankees in front of 17,856 at Tropicana Field.

It is the longest run of quality starts (at least six innings pitched, three or fewer runs allowed) for the much-hyped Rays rotation since the 2014 quintet did it over 10 straight games.

"It's nice," second baseman Logan Forsythe said. "You go out there and you expect that. They've done it before and you knew it was going to happen eventually this season."

The Rays are 6-7 since the All-Star break, with those six wins coming in their past 11 games. The Rays starters have a 1.35 ERA during this run of nine quality starts, thanks in part to Odorizzi's streak of 142/3 scoreless innings over his past two outings.

The starters have allowed only four earned runs in their past six games covering 41 innings. The pitching staff as a whole has a 2.46 ERA since the break.

"I think a lot of the credit has to go to the starting pitchers who have turned the corner," manager Kevin Cash said. "I don't know what took place over the All-Star break, but they came back and have been really providing us with some good outings and given us chances to win games."

Friday's win was the product of strong starting pitching, power from the offense — five extra-base hits, including first inning home runs off Ivan Nova by Forsythe and Corey Dickerson — and solid defense. That was the blueprint the Rays were expected to follow since the start of the season.

"We've played that way since the break," Cash said. "I know we don't have the wins to support that, but we're playing tighter ball games."

Odorizzi, the subject of trade rumors and the focal point of many of the scouts in attendance Friday, has not walked a batter during his past two starts. He has averaged 13.9 pitches per inning, down from a major league-high 18.3 before that. He has pitched more than six innings in back-to-back starts for the first time since early last season.

"I'm not really worried about (the rumors) to be honest," he said. "I'm worried about what I do here and coming out in the second half and starting off well, which thankfully I have. That's been my main focus. Do well for this team and just get better overall, because the first half I wasn't happy with."

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