ST. PETERSBURG — The talk before Saturday's game, as it has been so often this season, was about the Rays bullpen. Specifically, how manager Kevin Cash uses several pitchers a lot and others not enough.
The trio of Erasmo Ramirez, Xavier Cedeno and Alex Colome picked up the final 10 outs and helped nail down Friday's one-run win against the Astros.
"We've got to find another recipe to win some ball games without using those three for sure. But they've been tremendous. And part of that is on me," manager Kevin Cash said. "I have to lean on some other guys and give them some opportunities to help us win ball games."
Cash mentioned getting more opportunities for lefties Dana Eveland and Enny Romero and for the rookies, Ryan Garton and Tyler Sturdevant.
But in the eighth inning Saturday, after Chris Archer allowed a two-out single to Marwin Gonzalez on his 118th pitch, Cash called for ol' reliable, Ramirez.
And "Every Day" didn't have it. He allowed Gonzalez to score the go-ahead run after he hit the first batter he faced, walked the next and slid a slider past catcher Curt Casali for a wild pitch in what became a 4-3 loss to Houston in front of 19,658 at Tropicana Field.
The Astros added another run in the ninth when Eveland allowed a home run to the left-handed hitting Luis Valbuena as the Rays fell to 28-32.
"You don't like that as a reliever, but some days it's going to happen," Ramirez said. "It happened (Saturday). But hopefully it don't happen that often."
Archer had one of his best outings of the season, pitching into the eighth inning for only the second time in his 14 starts. He did not walk a batter. His 118 pitches were a season high.
But Cash said it wasn't the pitch count that forced him to go to Ramirez.
"I thought it was time," Cash said.
Ramirez faced six batters Friday while recording four outs. It was his major league-high 19th relief appearance of at least four outs. It also ran his streak of scoreless outings to four.
But needing only one out Saturday to get the Rays off the field, Ramirez hit Jose Altuve on the left elbow on a 1-and-2 pitch, walked Colby Rasmus on five pitches, then threw a wild pitch.
"I couldn't find the strike zone," he said. "I didn't find the right pitch in the right moment. It was too late when I got the popup and got out of the inning."
Ramirez leads the majors with 402/3 relief innings. He averages 14 pitches per inning. That's a heavy workload.
Archer said Ramirez has been solid "95 percent of the time" this season but added, "He's been used heavily, and baseball's a sport where there's a lot of ups and downs, and (Saturday) just was one that just wasn't necessarily positive for him, but we obviously fully believe and know what he's capable of."
Cash has relied on Ramirez and Colome because of their ability to recover and handle the work. But how long will it last?
"They're resilient, and that's great here at close to the midway part of the year," Cash said, "but at the same time we want them for the entire season, so we'll continue to factor how we can mix and match and get some other guys in some big situations."