Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays hold on to beat McCullers, Astros (w/ video)

ST. PETERSBURG — They won't all be easy for Alex Colome, even as he climbs up the Rays' record book one save at a time.

Exhibit A: He pitched into and out of a bases-loaded jam Wednesday to preserve a three-run victory.

Exhibit B: Colome did the same thing Friday to nail down the Rays' 4-3 victory against the Astros in front of 13,075 at Tropicana Field.

The game ended on a ground ball in the hole between shortstop and third base that Brad Miller had to charge to field, which forced him to make an offbalance throw to first base. That required first baseman Steve Pearce to catch the ball on a short hop, which he did for the final out.

"Oof," Colome said. "I was waiting for (Pearce) to catch the ball because, you know, a bad throw, but he did a great job. Great catch."

"Awesome win," manager Kevin Cash said.

The Rays returned home from a .500 road trip hoping to carry the momentum into a nine-game homestand. Home has not been kind to the Rays. It was almost cruel again Friday when a 4-0, second-inning lead built against Astros starter Lance McCullers of Tampa Jesuit was trimmed to one run when the Astros scored three in the third against Rays starter Matt Andriese.

That forced the bullpen to pick up the final 10 outs, which it did, beginning with Erasmo Ramirez's four-out outing. Xavier Cedeno had the eighth, and Colome, looking for his 18th save in as many tries, had the ninth.

It was the ninth that was hairy: A leadoff walk. A one-out double that stood after a replay challenge by the Rays on the safe call at second base. And an intentional walk to Jose Altuve that loaded the bases.

But Colome is nothing if not confident, despite this being his first year closing games at any level.

"Like 100 percent," he said. "I take the ball, throw down. Be strong on the mound."

It's that mentality that endears Colome to his team.

"We're pretty confident when he's on the mound," Cash said. "He's going to be able to calm the situation, make some big pitches and get some big outs for us. We probably didn't help him a ton. There were guys all over the bases, but to Alex's credit, he didn't let anything bother him except who was at the plate. That's what the good closers do. We feel like we have a very good closer."

Colome threw six straight strikes after walking Altuve. He got Colby Rasmus swinging, then got Evan Gattis to hit a ground to the left side of the infield.

"Brad Miller, tremendous play," Cash said, "and Steve Pearce probably as good to pick it out right there, because they put all kind of pressure on us and they made an awesome play together."

Colome's 18 straight saves is the longest stretch by a Rays closer to begin a season and tied for the longest run of saves at any point since Fernando Rodney saved 18 in a row in the middle of the 2012 season.

Though Colome has been perfect all season, he seems to pitch better when he's in a jam.

"In that situation you have to be calm, make great pitches," he said. "Because if we miss, we lose."

     
                         
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