Wednesday, July 18, 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 place Wilson Ramos on DL for potential extended absence, seek replacement

Rays place Wilson Ramos on DL for potential extended absence, seek replacement

ST. PETERSBURG – The Rays made the inevitable move Wednesday of placing catcher Wilson Ramos on the disabled list while still looking for a replacement.Ramos, 30, strained his left hamstring Saturday in Minnesota, which forced him out of Tuesda...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
An all-or-nothing All-Star Game

An all-or-nothing All-Star Game

WASHINGTON — Tuesday's All-Star Game was exciting, dramatic, historic — and perfectly representative of the 2018 season, what with the unprecedented power show, display of blazing arms creating a fan club (25 strikeouts), and the emotion ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays reinstate discount pizza promotion with Papa John’s after corporate action

Rays reinstate discount pizza promotion with Papa John’s after corporate action

The Rays reinstated the discount pizza promotion with Papa John's based on actions taken by corporate officials after the ouster of founder John Schnatter following reports he used a racial slur.The Rays had suspended the promotion, which offers half...
Updated: 7 hours ago
MLB: Brewers’ Josh Hader must take sensitivity training after tweets

MLB: Brewers’ Josh Hader must take sensitivity training after tweets

WASHINGTON — Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader will be required to go through sensitivity training after years-old racist and homophobic tweets of his resurfaced during the All-Star Game, Major League Baseball said Wednesday. MLB announced that th...
Updated: 9 hours ago
MLB player poll: Rays (and Marlins) fans are ‘the worst’

MLB player poll: Rays (and Marlins) fans are ‘the worst’

Rays fans and Tropicana Field are routinely ripped by media and out-of-towners, and the usual defense is the critics don't really know what they're talking about.Well, now the major-league players have spoken.Or at least some of them.Rays fans shared...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Record 10 homers as AL wins All-Star Game, 8-6, in 10 innings

Record 10 homers as AL wins All-Star Game, 8-6, in 10 innings

WASHINGTON — A record 10 home runs . A slew of strikeouts. The all-or-nothing All-Star Game mirrored what baseball has become. Astros teammates Alex Bregman and George Springer homered on consecutive pitches to begin the 10th inning, and the American...
Published: 07/18/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Blake Snell’s All-Star debut

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Blake Snell’s All-Star debut

The Rays' Blake Snell makes his All-Star debut with a memorable first pitch, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says he likes the Rays' new stadium plans, and there is controversy at the Home Run Derby.Plus, Florida head coach Dan Mullen says the Gators ha...
Published: 07/18/18
All-Star morning after: On Blake Snell’s opening act

All-Star morning after: On Blake Snell’s opening act

Willson Contreras had seen Rays lefty Blake Snell before.Five times over two 2017 games, and at least a couple of times in 2015 when they were both playing at Double-A.So the Cubs catcher had a good idea what to expect when Snell threw his first pitc...
Published: 07/18/18
The Twitter controversy that marred All-Star Game

The Twitter controversy that marred All-Star Game

What had been a three-day feel-good All-Star celebration of baseball ended in some controversy on Tuesday night with Brewers reliever Josh Hader apologizing for a series of tweets from 2011-12 that contained racist, sexist and homophobic comments."Th...
Published: 07/18/18
MLB commissioner Manfred confident Rays owner is ‘going to get’ stadium deal done

MLB commissioner Manfred confident Rays owner is ‘going to get’ stadium deal done

WASHINGTON – Acknowledging both the challenges and urgency to work out a public-private financing plan, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on Tuesday expressed extreme confidence in Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg to make a de...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18