In a Tampa Bay Rays season that is becoming increasingly filled with frustration, we always want to play the blame game. Well, even if he was acquired in exchange for David Price, Drew Smyly is the last player anyone should be complaining about. Smyly was spectacular again on Wednesday night to lead the Rays to a 3-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
The starting pitching continues to be fine for the Rays, with run support always being the real question. Luckily, they got that part out of the way early. Jonathan Schoop made a valiant effort to get Ben Zobrist at the plate on Matt Joyce‘s groundball, but unlike Tuesday, the Rays did not have a single runner thrown out at home in the game. Zobrist scored to give the Rays a 1-0 lead, and Joyce later scored himself on Wil Myers‘ RBI single. Then, in the second inning, a J.J. Hardy error to begin the frame eventually set up a Zobrist sac fly to make it a 3-0 contest in favor of the Rays. Chris Davis brought the O’s within 3-1 on a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, but that was as close as Baltimore would get.
Smyly wasn’t perfect–he did allow that Davis home run. However, that was basically it. The 25 year old lefty had another dream outing since joining the Rays, going 7 innings allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. His curveball was especially dominant, going for a strike 17 of the 23 times he threw it and forcing 5 whiffs, as many as he forced with all his other pitches combined. Drew Smyly now is 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA and a 29-7 strikeout to walk ratio in 36 innings since joining the Rays. There is no way to spin that as anything but spectacular.
Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee had no problems finishing the game, tossing a perfect inning each with a strikeout to give the Rays a 3-1 victory. The win pulls the Rays within 11 games of the Orioles of the AL East lead, certainly a formidable margin at this point in the season, and their 7.5-game deficit with four teams to pass in the Wild Card is no better. The optimistic fan, though, can at least wonder whether this can be the type of win that ignites another hot streak that keeps things interesting for the Rays in September. Jeremy Hellickson will hope to keep hope alive as he takes the ball against Orioles starter Bud Norris beginning at 7:05 PM on Thursday night.