Thursday, June 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays shut out Mariners for second straight win

SEATTLE — All the dramatics and heroics of Tuesday night's come-from-behind victory over the Mariners would have been nearly for naught had the Rays not followed up on Wednesday.

And though it wasn't easy — a 2-0 squeaker in which they scored on a bases-loaded walk and a wild pitch while rapping only three hits, and lost second baseman Ben Zobrist for likely a few weeks with a dislocated thumb — they got it done. With another strong start from reconstructed Jake Odorizzi, who took a no-hitter into the sixth, and enough support from the bullpen and defense, they feel like they are finally heading in the right direction.

"We knew things would get better," Odorizzi said. "And now it's getting to that next stage, put some things together and go on a good run. Every team does it, and hopefully this is our time when we start getting things going in the right direction. We can be right back in front of this thing as quickly as we were down here."

The back-to-back wins, their first since May 1-2 as they'd lost seven of nine, improved the last-place Rays to 18-23, and more importantly for their psyche to within 3½ games of the first-place Orioles.

"That's called a streak right there; anyone can win one, when you win two it's a streak," closer Grant Balfour cracked. "Every game you win builds a little more confidence among the team."

Odorizzi played a huge part, building on his strong showing in Friday's no-decision against Cleveland by sticking to a simplified game plan called by catcher Ryan Hanigan that relied on mixing his pitches well.

"It's just better utilization of all the stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "Better game planning. … Knowing what he's going to do before he goes out there matters."

Odorizzi didn't have command of his slow curve, but he used it as bait and relied primarily on his fastball. He walked the first batter then pretty much sailed, allowing one more walk then his lone hit with two outs in the sixth while striking out eight. He won, and got through six innings, for the first time since April 4.

"It's encouraging to see the results keep coming. It's a process, a learning process," he said. "I learned a lot during that tough stretch I went on. Learn what to do, how to use stuff, different things for different situations. Being through that situation makes these ones more special."

The Rays got their runs in a fourth-inning rally, such as it was, that featured one hit, a one-out single by Evan Longoria, followed by a fielder's choice grounder by James Loney.

Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings drew walks off Brandon Maurer to load the bases, then Yunel Escobar delivered what he called "a great at-bat," falling behind 0-and-2 then battling through seven more pitches to draw a walk, forcing in a run. The second scored when reliever Dominic Leone's second pitch bounced through catcher John Buck's legs, allowing Myers to race home.

The Rays protected it in the field, Longoria dazzling in starting a seventh-inning double play, and from the mound.

"We're trying to get out of this little hole that we put ourselves in, and every win now is a good win," Escobar said through bench coach Dave Martinez. "This ain't over 'til October."

Comments
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Published: 06/21/18
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Published: 06/20/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Published: 06/20/18
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Published: 06/20/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Kevin Kiermaier returns to the Rays

Times sports columnist Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to discuss Kevin Kiermaier's return to the Rays, whether Victor Hedman should win the Norris Trophy for the NHL's best defenseman, Bucs expectations for this season and Barry Trotz's next c...
Published: 06/20/18
How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

How the Rays really won Tuesday’s game over Astros

There was some interesting inside baseball elements that factored into the late innings of Tuesday's 2-1 Rays win.* First, on Matt Duffy's double off reliever Hector Rondon to lead off the eighth.Duffy said he doesn't like "to guess" what a pitcher i...
Published: 06/20/18
Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier returns, with energy to spare

HOUSTON — Energy.That's what Kevin Kiermaier said he felt he'd provide most in rejoining the Rays Tuesday against the Astros after missing two-plus months recovering from thumb surgery."I like to think I bring energy on both sides of the ball, ...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

Rays journal: Blake Snell outlasts Justin Verlander in 2-1 win

HOUSTON — The starting pitcher walked seven over seven otherwise solid innings Tuesday. That seemed weird enough for the Rays. Then the next pitcher they brought in was the one who started Monday's game. Even more bizarre.And then there was thi...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Astros

This is how odd LHP Blake Snell's night was — he became the first pitcher to work seven or more innings and walk at least seven since Edwin Jackson threw his 149-pitch, eight-walk no-hitter at the Rays on June 25, 2010.If you weren't aware of t...
Published: 06/19/18