ST. PETERSBURG — From the moment Andrew Bellatti got word late Friday night of his unexpected promotion to join the Rays' beleaguered pitching staff, everything was on fast-forward.
A series of phone calls, to his mom first, of course, to share the news. A couple of flights to get from Syracuse to Philadelphia to Tampa by midafternoon, then a cab that dropped him at the Trop around 3:45 p.m. There were papers to sign, people to meet, that new No. 59 Rays jersey to pull on. He found his way to the field for a quick run and a game of catch, getting a little advice along the way.
"I've been on the move," Bellatti said.
Then he got to pitch, working 3⅓ impressive relief innings to earn the win in his big-league debut as the resilient Rays beat the Rangers 7-2 Saturday.
"Andrew Bellatti, what a performance," manager Kevin Cash said. "Gets off a plane … and picks up a win."
Bellatti, a 23-year-old who hadn't been above Double A until this season, certainly did his part.
But it was another impressive group effort for a team that has had so much go wrong, the latest that starter Drew Smyly might be facing season-ending shoulder surgery, yet keeps finding ways for things to go right, improving to a season-best three games over .500 at 17-14.
Evan Longoria, marking his bobblehead night, and Steven Souza Jr. hit three-run homers, and Asdrubal Cabrera, who earlier got in a scuffle with Texas second baseman Adam Rosales that caused the benches to empty, ended a career-long 49-game homerless streak with a solo blast.
Rookie Matt Andriese, summoned to replace ill Jake Odorizzi (who will pitch today instead), gave them a solid 3⅔-inning start, especially for a guy who had worked only two innings at Triple A in the previous 12 days. "A really nice job," Cash said. Relievers Brandon Gomes, Steve Geltz and Brad Boxberger took care of the other six outs.
And the Rays even won their first replay challenge, ending Cash's season-starting 0-for-11 streak that matched the MLB record worst.
But the story of the night was Bellatti, who allowed one hit and one walk.
"Seemed pretty much unfazed by the lineup he was facing and the guys that are in it," Cash said. "We're just hoping for strikes. And he's coming in doing a lot more than just throwing strikes."
With all the rushing around he did all day, Bellatti said the key to success was slowing down. Knowing his parents, Pam and Ron, and his girlfriend made it in from San Diego helped.
He retired Leonys Martin on a fly ball to start the sixth, hit Robinson Chirinos, got Rosales on a flyout, then struck out Shin-Soo Choo, hopping off the mound and pumping his fist.
"I definitely calmed down," he said. "The first inning I was pretty pumped. I was kind of looking at the crowd. And then I kind of got in a zone. I did start to feel very comfortable out there.'
Just getting to the majors was an accomplishment for Bellatti, who was the driver in a 2010 fatal accident and served time in county jail. Through a plea agreement to charges including vehicular manslaughter and a request for leniency from the widow of the man who died, Bellatti's time behind bars was less than 90 days. (For the in-depth story, see tbtim.es/hzt.) "There's huge satisfaction from everything I've been through on and off the field," he said.
With all that went on Saturday, what stuck with Bellatti the most was the postgame celebration, including a beer shower from his teammates.
"It was pretty epic," he said. "I've never been a part of something like that. That was definitely memorable. I'm going to remember that when I'm 80 years old."
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected].