ST. LOUIS — The formula isn't conducive to long-term success, but for the second straight day the Rays got less than five innings from their starter and celebrated a win.
On Friday, that was a 7-3 victory over the Cardinals after Jake Odorizzi was pulled two outs into the fourth.
But the games are obviously vital, as the Rays (64-66) try to stay in the American League wild-card race, standing three games and five teams out. And the bullpen has been very good, which it was again as Steve Cishek, Sergio Romo (who got the win), Dan Jennings, Tommy Hunter and Alex Colome combined for 51/3 scoreless innings.
"The bullpen came in and was outstanding the way we kind of navigated through that,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "Everybody got big outs.''
The Rays continued to show signs of their offensive resurgence, posting 30 runs over their past six games following a stretch of just 24 in 14. Friday's 16 hits where their most in a game since June 13.
"We've been waiting for one of those days just to rack up a bunch of hits,'' Cash said. "It's been a while, so it's good to see.''
Steven Souza Jr. got them started in the third with a 434-foot blast into the Big Mac Land second deck, and they added three more, with a two-run double by Adeiny Hechavarria and Odorizzi's second big-league hit, an infield single. Heating-up Corey Dickerson — with four more hits — doubled in a run in the fourth. And sparkplug Kevin Kiermaier singled in two more in the ninth.
"Hello. We're awake. We're here,'' Souza said. "Everybody is saying it's like a breakout performance. I wouldn't say it's a breakout performance. This is what we did the whole first half. So we're getting back on track. I think this is our identity of who we are.
"The pitchers have pitched so well. The bullpen has been so great. If we can keep doing this, there's going to be some special things.''
Odorizzi allowed three runs on three hits but four walks, throwing 74 pitches (45 strikes).
Cash said the walks were the issue, especially three in a four-batter span in the third after the Rays had just taken a 4-1 lead. And there was a mitigating factor of having reliever Steve Cishek warmed up again in the fourth inning and not wanting to burn him for the night, so with the Cardinals pinch-hitting Jose Martinez for starter Michael Wacha, Cash decided he had seen enough.
"Odo, I thought he showed some signs of being pretty good but also the walks, it's tough to avoid that, not being reactive to get somebody else out (there),'' Cash said. "We got him a lead and then I felt it was best to keep it that way.''
Odorizzi, pitching with more than 200 friends and relatives on hand in the stadium 45 minutes from his hometown, was understandably contrite about the decision, and probably more upset than he showed.
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"It was the manager's decision, and that's it,'' Odorizzi said. "It's not my choice.''
The Rays also were again on the right side of a key replay decision, as the call was upheld on a heads-up out at third after the Cardinals scored on a sacrifice fly in the third inning — first baseman Logan Morrison cutting off centerfielder Kiermaier's off-target throw and firing to Evan Longoria.
Thursday, the Rays beat the Blue Jays 2-0 after Alex Cobb was pulled in the fifth.
While the bullpen has done the job, Cash knows they can't keep it up at that pace.
"We've got a lot of confidence, we keep going to them,'' he said. "Saying that, we need a couple of big starts now, definitely by Blake (Snell) going into tomorrow, giving us some length.''