Erik Bedard played with fire in his outing on Thursday night. He allowed a one-out double to Michael Brantley in the second inning, walked two Cleveland Indians to begin the third, and walked another one to begin the fourth. Stuff-wise, his average fastball deteriorated significantly as the game went on, going from 88.92 MPH in his first three innings before dipping to 87.65 MPH in his final three. That was a statistically significant value, occurring with just 8834 to 1 odds by chance alone. However, at least in this game, Bedard did not let those issues affect them. The Bedard double and three walks were issues, but those were all he allowed in his six innings of work, striking out four in the process. He has now gone six innings in consecutive starts, emerging as a dependable option in a Rays rotation that has desperately needed one for a long time. Who knows how long Bedard can last–that velocity decrease can’t possibly be a good sign–but the Rays will appreciate every good outing they can get until Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson return.
Bedard also got quite a bit of help from the Rays’ offense. They got on the board in the third inning against Zack McAllister when Desmond Jennings singled with two outs, stole a base, and scored on David DeJesus‘ single. It was great to see the Rays put together a two-out run, but they had to be hoping for a lot more than that in subsequent innings. Luckily, at least for one game, they got it. They scored two more times each in the fourth, fifth, and seventh innings, including two RBI each from James Loney and Matt Joyce, to go ahead 7-0. For once, the Rays were excellent with runners in scoring position, going 4 for 6 and leaving just six runners on base. Loney’s heroics were predictable–he went 3 for 4–but it was great to see Ben Zobrist lace two hits, Joyce deliver two key sac flies, and Evan Longoria drill an RBI double. This can be the type of game that gets the Rays offense going. Honestly, they need it to be.
Behind Bedard, Juan Carlos Oviedo was excellent, tossing two perfect innings with a pair of strikeouts. He did fall behind 2-0 three different times, but he battled back in counts to deliver a very encouraging outing. The Rays are still waiting for him to show that they can rely on him, but he is starting to get there. Between the performances of Bedard and Oviedo, the Rays had a one-hitter through eight innings.
Then Grant Balfour came into the game in a non-save situation since he had not pitched since May 4th, and the results were rocky. He allowed two hits and a walk without recording an out to make the game far more interesting then it could have been. Joe Maddon had to get Jake McGee warming in the bullpen. But Balfour came together from there, allowing a sac fly before getting a game-ending 4-6-3 double play to finish the Rays’ 7-1 lead. It would have been nice for Balfour to have a quick inning, but it was important just to get him in the swing of things again, and better that he struggles when the Rays have a seven-run lead. The Rays will hopefully be needing plenty of him in the coming days and weeks.
Saturday night’s game was exactly the type of dominant performance the Rays had been hoping for. Erik Bedard provided length, Oviedo impressed behind him, and the offense delivered key hits to score seven runs. The question now is whether this game can be the start of the Rays finally coming together as a team. Chris Archer goes against Josh Tomlin tomorrow at 1:40 PM as the Rays hope to come away with a series win.