A four-run 4th inning propelled the Rays over the Yankees on Wednesday afternoon to a 5-4 win. The Rays hit 3 home runs to drive in all 5 runs and the Rays’ 5th starter competition intensified as the three main candidates all took the hill.
Cesar Ramos got the start and struggled out of the gate. He got the first out of the game by striking out Brett Gardner, but he then allowed 3 straight hits to give the Yankees their first run of the ball game. He then allowed a second run when the Rays defense failed to turn a fairly routine double play on a ground ball to second. After that, he settled down and got within one out of finishing the 3rd inning. Ramos allowed 4 hits total and allowed 2 runs while striking out 2. His fastball velocity was mostly around 90 MPH during his outing and showed pretty good command.
Grant Balfour struggled in his second outing of the spring. In one inning pitched he allowed 2 hits, walked a batter and allowed 2 runs. His fastball was mostly around 90 MPH and had trouble keeping it down in the zone. He was throwing more breaking balls than usual, though, and that led to some of his problems.
Erik Bedard looked much better in his second spring outing and went 3 scoreless innings. He allowed 3 hits, struck out 2 and walked a batter in his outing but his curveball looked very sharp today in particular. His fastball velocity was around the low-90s and he did leave it out over the plate a few times and gave up some well-hit line drives. He’ll need to work on his fastball command a bit more, but a much better outing all around from him. He will not be the pushover his first outing made it seem like he was.
Joel Peralta looked sharp again and struck out the side in his one inning of work. He featured his normal 90 MPH fastball and got a couple ugly swings on his changeup and splitter, which he worked in as well. Then Jake Odorizzi closed out the game out in the 9th inning and featured his normal low-90s fastball but had a much improved changeup working as he got the last batter of the game to strike out on it. He hanged his slider slider a couple of times, but got a pair of whiffs on that as well. Odorizzi did allow 2 hits but featured the best stuff and overall best command of the group competing for the 5th starter role.
The Rays only had a few regulars in the lineup but they made their at-bats count. Ben Zobrist led off the game with an opposite field home run off Adam Warren. Zobrist added another hit on the game and ended the day going 2 for 3 with 2 runs scored and an RBI. Hopefully this is a sign that his recent back injury is behind him. Trailing by 3 runs in the 5th inning, Desmond Jennings tied the game with a long home run to left with 2 men on base. It would be nice to see Jennings tap into more of his power in 2014. Matt Joyce then hit a home run to right field to give the Rays the lead. Evan Longoria went 1 for 3 in the game as well. Among the non-regulars, Vince Belnome also went 2 for 3 on the game.
The defense played another pretty solid game behind the pitching staff, but they make a couple of mistakes. A double play should’ve been made in the first inning, but a low throw from Jayson Nix that couldn’t be scooped up by Belnome cost the Rays a run, and Richie Shaffer made an error at third. However, Brandon Guyer got credited with an assist when his throw to home was cut off by Evan Longoria and threw out Gardner trying for second on the throw and Ryan Hanigan looked very comfortable handling the Rays first few pitchers, though, no one attempted to steal off of him. There was also a nice base running play when Vince Belnome took third on a ball in the dirt and Jayson Nix took second while the Yankees’ were complaining about the call.
The Rays are back at it tomorrow at 1:05 in Sarasota to take on the Orioles. David Price is set to make an appearance, as is another member of the Rays’ 5th starter battle, Nate Karns. Check back here for the game preview tomorrow morning.