David who? Drew Smyly pitched an incredible tonight. Yes, it was against an anemic Texas Rangers lineup, but he displayed a lot of potential and a great arsenal of pitches. Meanwhile, the Rays’ bats that were hot stayed hot. Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, and even Cole Figueroa were excellent at the plate for Tampa Bay. Of course, one game won’t make Rays fans forget that David guy, but Smyly alone could certainly hasten along the process and make the Rays’ brass look great in the process. The Rays scored 7 and shut out the Rangers in this first of four at Arlington, pulling to within two games of .500 baseball.
Drew Smyly was sharp. He and Curt Casali kept a fast tempo and seem like they’ll make a good battery tandem. Smyly was placing his pitches well and kept Texas guessing early, getting the ball in as he jammed Texas bats and forced popups. The Rangers only had one hit through six innings, and the lone hit was a debatable call on a Daniel Robertson bunt that Smyly barehanded and flipped over Loney’s head. Smyly unravelled or fatigued a little in the 8th. But with his pitch count the highest its been this season, Hickey and Maddon challenged Smyly to get Shin-Soo Choo with one out and a few runners on. Smyly proceeded to strike Choo out. Overall he went 7.2 innings allowing 3 hits and 3 walks while striking out 9 Rangers.
The Rays put Texas starter Colby Lewis in an early jam, and seemed to have him overmatched throughout his 5 innings of work. They sent 8 men to the plate in the second and scored three runs. After Figueroa walked and Yunel Escobar singled, Casali attempted to sacrifice the two baserunners over. But Lewis rushed a play on Figueroa at third and threw wildly, and the floodgates opened from there. One run scored on the error before Matt Joyce delivered a two-run single later in the inning.
In the fourth, Kevin Kiermaier duelled against both Lewis and Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos. They both attempted to pick-off Kiermaier at first after he walked, but Kiermaier was too attentive and active. After a lot of attention, he stole second before the red-hot Zobrist (the league’s best hitter of recent, hitting over .400 for August) doubled him home. After Joyce walked, Evan Longoria was able to wait on a fastball and drove it to right-center, scoring Zobrist. It was nice to see Zobrist continuing to roll and Longoria playing well, but the biggest star was arguably Matt Joyce. He was on base 4 times on Monday night, and perhaps has adopted some of Zobrist’s patience.
One negative was that Kevin Kiermaier was replaced in the 7th inning. Before lining a triple to the right field corner, he appeared to feel a pull in his back or his side. This was a precautionary matter. He’s got an official case of “lower back tightness. In addition, Grant Balfour walked two batters in the ninth. This raised his season total to 35 which is also the most batters he’s walked in any season–and we’re not yet through August. At least he was able to recover to close out the game without costing the Rays the shutout.
This win gave the Rays 15 straight road games without allowing more than three runs, tying the major league level. Jeremy Hellickson (1-1, 2.61 ERA) will hope to extend that as he faces Nick Tepesch (4-7, 4.46 ERA) on Tuesday at 8:05 PM EST.