Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Jake Odorizzi hopes to pitch deeper into game

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jake Odorizzi has not pitched more than five innings in six of his 13 starts this season and the reason can usually be traced to one long inning.

Some examples: He needed 41 pitches to retire the Diamondbacks during the second inning of his last start, a five-inning affair at Arizona that resulted in a victory. A 14-pitch, first-inning at-bat by Billy Burns on May 13 led to a short four-inning, 97-pitch outing in a loss to the A's.

"It's just one inning that's usually causing a lot of high pitches, so if I can get one inning figured out I think everything will line up a whole lot better," Odorizzi, who faces the Mariners tonight, said. "I still feel really good and confident with the stuff I've been putting out there."

Last season, Odorizzi pitched at least six innings in each of his first 12 starts. The run ended in Seattle when he strained his oblique and left after 4 1/3 innings.

Figuring out how to avoid that high-pitch inning has not been easy. But Odorizzi said Sunday he has some ideas.

"Just try to keep getting early outs or if I get two quick ones try to get that third one quick, too, instead of maybe messing around with a few pitches if I'm ahead and then trying to make that perfect pitch once, twice and it's 2-2 and anything kind of goes from there," he said. "Just stay in attack mode. No outs, two outs, whatever it may be and just try to get out of the inning as quick as possible. It's something you can't really work on. You just have to go with the flow."

Sturdevant impresses: Manager Kevin Cash was pleased with the way RHP Tyler Sturdevant pitched during the final two games of the Astros series over the weekend.

The rookie entered Saturday's game in the ninth inning after LHP Dana Eveland surrendered a leadoff home run and pitched around a two-out walk to keep it a two-run game. On Sunday, Sturdevant replaced LHP Enny Romero with one on and one out in the eighth and retired five straight to close out the victory.

Sturdevant provided some welcomed relief for a team in search of dependable arms in the bullpen.

"Sturdy did a tremendous job attacking the zone," Cash said after Sunday's game. "I know they squared up on some balls in that second inning of work, that's what we want him to do. Let them put the ball in play, make the defense work and that's what he did."

Mahtook productive: OF Mikie Mahtook has been more productive at the plate this month after going 1-for-21 in May.

He's batting .258 this month after going 1-for-4 in Sunday's win. But that one hit was a big one — a two-run single with the bases loaded that gave the Rays a 4-0 lead.

That hit produced more RBIs for Mahtook than he had in his first 50 at-bats this season.

"The guys in front of me put together some good at-bats, and I was just trying to follow suit," Mahtook said.

Noteworthy: In his past 14 games 3B Evan Longoria is hitting .563 with runners in scoring position and has 17 RBIs. … All four of SS Brad Miller's home runs this season at Tropicana Field have landed in Section 148 in right-centerfield. … The Rays have not hit a walk-off home run since Sean Rodriguez did it May 22, 2014 against the A's. It's the longest active drought in the majors.

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