April has arrived, and while the regular season is still five days away, several Tampa Bay Rays regulars look like they are ready. Five Rays pitchers combined on a shutout while both James Loney and Desmond Jennings delivered strong days at the plate as the team beat their division-rival New York Yankees 3-0.
Jordan Norberto started for the Rays and looked iffy, but he still managed to keep the Yankees off the board. New York received two singles with two outs in the first inning and three walks in the second frame, but Norberto found a way to work out of both jams. Norberto had his moments for the Rays this spring, and while he is still not back to full strength after Tommy John Surgery, he is certainly making progress.
The Rays gave Norberto a run of support in the second inning, scoring on a Jennings double followed by a Loney RBI single. Then, in the sixth inning, Jennings and Loney were at it again. With one out, Jennings singled and Loney doubled, and then both of them scored on a fielding error by Brendan Ryan. Given how well the Rays’ bullpen looked, that was enough to put the game out of reach.
Grant Balfour followed Norberto by tossing a perfect inning with a strikeout before Kirby Yates delivered two spotless frames with 2 K’s. Balfour has looked good in his four appearances back after mourning the passing of his father while Yates now has a 2.45 ERA and an 11-3 strikeout to walk ratio in 11 innings pitched. Balfour hopes to get back to logging big innings for the Rays this year and Yates looks like he has the inside track on a roster spot.
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Next up for the Rays was Jhan Marinez, who entered the game with a 4.70 ERA and a 6 strikeouts versus 5 walks in 7.2 innings. This game, however, was an entirely different story. Marinez went 3 innings allowing just a hit, striking out 4 while walking none. Marinez’s control is extremely inconsistent, but when it’s on, he can be dominant. Mark Sappington, who the Rays acquired in the Cesar Ramos trade, finished off the game with a scoreless ninth.
On the offensive side, James Loney finished his day 3 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Desmond Jennings was right behind him, going 2 for 3 with a double and 2 runs scored. Brandon Guyer and Kevin Kiermaier both went 1 for 3, with Guyer also swiping a base. Finally, Tim Beckham replaced Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop late in the game and had a positive experience, going 1 for 1 with a steal of his own.
The win moves the Rays to 13-12-2 this spring, and they will take on the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:05 PM tomorrow. The game will be on CSN Philadelphia for fans in the Philly area or who are MLB.TV subscribers.