Sunday, September 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays closer Fernando Rodney gets one out, sets record for relief ERA

ST. PETERSBURG — No matter how much the Tropicana Field crowd — as well as RHP Joel Peralta — called for RHP Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning Wednesday night, manager Joe Maddon wasn't going to use his All-Star closer unless it was absolutely necessary.

Maddon knew Rodney entered the season finale holding the single-season record for lowest ERA by a reliever in baseball history, percentage points better than Dennis Eckersley's 0.61 (1990). And Maddon wasn't going to risk history just for the fans' favor.

But after Peralta gave up a two-out single to Orioles C Matt Wieters, with the Rays up just three runs, Maddon gave everyone what they wanted, bringing Rodney in for the final out.

Rodney got DH Jim Thome to fly out to left then shot his imaginary arrow into the sky for the 48th and final time, receiving another standing ovation for his special season.

Rodney improved his reliever record for lowest ERA (0.60), allowing five earned runs over 742/3 innings.

"I was surprised by the year I had," said Rodney, who has a $2.5 million team option for next season. "Next year, I want to be the same guy and do my job."

Rodney started warming up in the ninth, in case the Orioles crept closer. And they did, scoring on a sacrifice fly by CF Adam Jones. Fans got to their feet and began chanting, "RODNEY!"

"I say, 'Come on guys, give me a night off tonight,' " Rodney joked.

Peralta also motioned from the mound to Maddon, asking to bring his good friend. Peralta did his part by giving up the single, and Maddon said it was the right moment for Rodney.

"I looked at (Rodney) warming up, I looked at Joe, 'Bring in the guy. Everybody wants him,' " Peralta said. "He deserves to be out there. He deserves to have that standing ovation over there."

QUICK START: RHP Jeremy Hellickson made a fine final start, allowing just one hit over 51/3 innings while striking out six. He walked one and threw 80 pitches. Said Maddon: "It's definitely a good way for him to go home this winter and think about this last game."

STANDING TALL: RHP Jeff Niemann threw off a mound Wednesday for the first time since suffering right shoulder inflammation in a Sept. 1 start, making 30 pitches (all fastballs) with no problems.

"It was a great day," Niemann said. Niemann plans to rehab throughout the offseason, potentially pitching in winter ball.

Most important, Niemann said he'll be able to report to spring training "100 percent ready to go, absolutely."

VOTE FOR VOGT: C Stephen Vogt came oh-so-close to his first big-league hit, nearly beating out a high chopper to second base in the seventh. Vogt finished his rookie season 0-for-25, becoming the first AL position player, and one of four players overall, to go oh-fer for the season with at least 25 at-bats.

PITCHING IN: The Rays finished leading the majors in ERA (3.19) and opponent's batting average (.228) and the AL with a record 1,383 strikeouts; they joined the 1999 Red Sox as the only teams in the past 25 years to lead the AL in all three categories. It's the lowest ERA by an AL team since the 1990 A's (3.18) and the lowest opponent average by an AL team in the DH era.

• Wednesday was the 12th straight game in which the Rays starter allowed two earned runs or fewer, since Sept. 21 vs. Toronto. Rays starters allowed two earned runs or fewer 101 times, most by an AL team since five teams did it in 1968.

IN THE SWING: The Rays offense led the majors with 571 walks. The last team to lead the majors in walks with a team batting average as low as the Rays (.240) was the 1968 Red Sox (582 walks, .236 average).

• The Rays struck out 1,323 times, third most in AL history behind the 2012 A's (1,387) and 2007 Devil Rays (1,324).

• The Rays finished one shy of the Twins (135) for most stolen bases in the AL.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Rays journal: Blue Jays spoil wild-card bid

Rays journal: Blue Jays spoil wild-card bid

TORONTO — There was no drama, no emotional rescues after Saturday's game.After feeling, appropriately, crushed after they gave away Thursday's game, blowing a six-run lead in the ninth, then bouncing back Friday, the Rays on Saturday faced a st...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

OF Tommy Pham insists he doesn't feel locked in at the plate. Interesting, since it's hard to imagine he could get much hotter: 345 in 31 games since coming to the Rays and .402 while reaching base in 24 straight games, a career best and current AL h...
Updated: 10 hours ago
20 things about Mr. 20 Blake Snell, including, yes, blocking his mom on his phone

20 things about Mr. 20 Blake Snell, including, yes, blocking his mom on his phone

TORONTO — Twenty things about Blake Snell as he takes the mound Sunday for the first time as a 20-game winner.Snell …• Is the first 20-game winner in the majors since 2016.• Will have the fewest innings of any 20-game winner i...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays Tales: And the winners are …

Rays Tales: And the winners are …

This season won't end up among the most successful in the Rays' 21-year franchise history, but I'd make the case it might be the most interesting.From the winter/spring purge of the veterans, dire predictions for 100-plus losses, frigid 1-8/4-13 star...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays lose again to Jays, 5-2, end is in sight

Rays lose again to Jays, 5-2, end is in sight

TORONTO – Friday's bounce back didn't carry over for the Rays, and after a 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday, they are close to being officially bounced from the race for the final American League playoff spot.The Rays opened the series in ...
Published: 09/22/18
For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, with Meadows in the lineup

For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, with Meadows in the lineup

UPDATE, 2:41: Cash said Kiermaier was "a little banged up" from a slide on Thursday so he gave him the day off vs. the lefty but is available, and that allowed Meadows to be in the lineup. … Cash also said Ji-Man Choi, who left Friday's game wi...
Published: 09/22/18
Rays bounce back big after a debacle

Rays bounce back big after a debacle

TORONTO — The way the Rays played Friday — all nine innings, lesson learned — in beating the Jays 11-3 provided the best answer on how, or even if, they could rebound from the crushing loss the night before that all but ended their ...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/22/18
Rays journal: Carlos Gomez says ump should’ve been ejected

Rays journal: Carlos Gomez says ump should’ve been ejected

TORONTO — After unleashing a Twitter rant criticizing umpire Andy Fletcher's work behind the plate Thursday, Rays OF Carlos Gomez doubled down on his comments, saying he was even more upset about how Fletcher treated him when questioning a thir...
Published: 09/21/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Friday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Friday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

Mallex Smith has his moments in the outfield, but he can produce highlights. He made two dazzling catches Friday. On one he went running and sliding across the foul line; on the other he crashed into the rightfield wall, though twisting his right ank...
Published: 09/21/18
Rays Carlos Gomez doubles down on criticism of umpire

Rays Carlos Gomez doubles down on criticism of umpire

After unleashing a Twitter rant criticizing umpire Andy Fletcher's work behind the plate in Thursday's game, Rays OF Carlos Gomez doubled down  in his comments Friday, saying he was even more upset about how Fletcher treated him when questioning...
Published: 09/21/18