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Rays Spring Game 17: Jake Odorizzi Tosses 5.2 Strong Innings

By Robbie Knopf

With Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, and Alex Colome all out, much of the focus has been placed on the pitchers who will replace them. Just as critical for the Rays, though, is how the mainstays in their rotation, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, will do to make up for the absence of their fellow starters. Odorizzi certainly showed signs that he can be successful in that regard as he impressed against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon.

Odorizzi’s outing was spoiled by RBI singles from Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez at the end, but his final line was impressive nonetheless. He tossed 5.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 5 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. He got so far into the game by spring training standards because he was extremely efficient, using just 69 pitches overall.

Odorizzi’s struggles in April last year amplified the Rays’ starting pitching issues that stemmed from the injuries to Cobb and Moore. By the middle of May, however, he had found his groove and there is reason to believe that he can be a very good pitcher for this team. The Rays never planned to have Jake Odorizzi be their number two starter at any point in time, but by the end of the year, some other teams might wish they had a No. 2 as good as Odorizzi.

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The Rays got on the board in the fifth inning on a Juan Francisco solo homer before the two RBI singles in the sixth gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead. After that, though, the Rays bullpen was dominant, with Steve GeltzC.J. Riefenhauser, Brandon Gomes, and Jeff Beliveau combined for 3.1 innings allowing just 2 hits and no walks while striking out 5. Gomes was the best of the lot, tossing 2 innings allowing just a hit while striking out 3.

The effort from the bullpen kept the Rays down just a run, and that loomed large when the Rays rallied in the ninth. Kevin Kiermaier led off the frame with a double, and after David DeJesus walked, Kiermaier scored on a potential double play ball gone bad to tie the game. Luckily, the game-winner was a little more climactic–Allan Dykstra drilled a walk-off two-run homer with two outs.

The Rays’ only three hits in the game were the Kiermaier double and the homers from Francisco and Dykstra. It’s not like they walked a lot either–DeJesus’ base on balls was the only one for them in the entire game. This was a case of the Rays being as opportunistic as humanly possible, and Rays fans would love to see them come up with clutch hits in this fashion more often.

The Rays are now 9-7-1 this spring thanks to the heroics of Jake Odorizzi, Dykstra, and Francisco. They will take on the Toronto Blue Jays at 12:37 PM tomorrow in Dunedin in a game that will be broadcast on 620 WDAE and on Rogers Sportsnet if you are an MLB.TV subscriber.

Next: Damage Control for Tampa Bay Rays' Starting Pitching