ST. PETERSBURG — In deciding to push back Tyler Glasnow’s start from Sunday to Tuesday, the Rays gambled that any disruption to his routine would be offset by the long-term benefits of giving him two days of extra rest and reducing his overall season workload.
Turned out there was some immediate payoff as well in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Nationals.
Glasnow was strong and sharp from the start, striking out 11 while scattering six hits over seven innings. And because of the extra rest, the Rays were comfortable letting him throw a career-high 114 pitches (most by a Ray in more than three years). They allowed him to complete the seventh and set up the bullpen to eventually close out the game, their third straight allowing one or no runs.
The Rays won for the 20th time in their last 24 games and improved their American League-best record to 39-23, moving to a season-high 16 games over .500.
“We’d like to think that the extra days did him did him good,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We extended him — he was getting to that territory where it wasn’t very comfortable. The (Starlin) Castro at-bat (with a man on and two outs in the seventh), foul ball, foul ball, foul ball.
“But Glas continued to make big pitch after big pitch with not a lot of margin of error that he was working with. So just an outstanding performance.”
Glasnow wasn’t sure the extra rest made that much difference. But he said the timing of his delivery was synced up from the start, which allowed him to be aggressive and effective early, following catcher Mike Zunino’s lead to just throw to him. Glasnow also said his slider was the best it’s been, a big reason he also had a career high-matching 27 swing-and-misses (also a team record).
“I stopped trying to have good timing. I just tried to be aggressive and throw the ball hard,” Glasnow said. “Z helped kind of remind me of it, too, like always kind of giving me just like ‘through me’ messages. … I think it was just being aggressive every single pitch and not trying to finesse anything.”
And why should he, given the “nasty” stuff he has, Zunino said. “We don’t need him trying to hit corners.”
Glasnow also made sure to credit the “crazy good defense;” the Rays made a handful of key plays, as they typically do.
One of the biggest was in the seventh, when Josh Bell tried to score from second on Josh Harrison’s one-out single to left, but Randy Arozarena made a good enough throw and Zunino a very good tag for a huge second out. The call was confirmed in replay review.
“I tried to play it a little coy and sort of read the throw and not get too set up,” Zunino said. “Luckily, I did because the throw took a weird hop up the line a little bit. Once I got it, the biggest thing for me was racing to the plate.”
The Rays also needed two huge outs in the eighth from side-armer Ryan Thompson, who came on after J.P. Feyereisen had loaded the bases and struck out Ryan Zimmerman and Bell.
“Really liked the way he came in an attacked with strikes,” Cash said. “Those were big pitches he made.”
The key to Rays offense was patience, both with themselves after wasting several opportunities to follow up Manuel Margot’s leadoff homer and with the Nats pitchers who couldn’t throw straight.
By the end, the Rays drew eight walks (matching their season high for a nine-inning game) and saw 182 pitches, including 91 from starter Jon Lester, who didn’t survive the fourth.
They finally got two more runs in the fifth.
Austin Meadows and Arozarena drew walks from Wander Suero. Mike Brosseau blooped a ball down the rightfield line that eluded Juan Soto on the bounce to get them one run. “Bross certainly picked us up in a big way,” Cash said.
Zunino’s one-out single got them another.
“The biggest thing there was guys just working at-bats,” Zunino said. “Guys are just doing a great job not giving at-bats away.”
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