If the Tampa Bay Rays are going to contend this season, they will need a lot more games like this one. Jake Odorizzi delivered the first of what should be many dominant outings from Rays starters in 2015 and the offense seized a pair of opportunities as they beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-0.
We all remember how bad Jake Odorizzi looked the second time through the batting order at the beginning of last season. This year will certainly be a different story. Odorizzi found effectiveness with all four of his pitches in this game as he went 6.2 innings allowing no runs on 2 hits, striking out 7 while walking none. He beat the Orioles with an excellent split-change, good fastballs up, solid first-pitch curveballs, and even a few strong cutters.
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A lot of pressure is on Odorizzi and Chris Archer to carry the Tampa Bay Rays’ staff until the team’s other regular starters return, but they clearly have the ability to pick up the load. We know how good Archer’s stuff is, and Odorizzi continues to show that his success from the middle of last season onwards is something that he can sustain. He may never be more than the Rays’ third or fourth starter when everyone is healthy, but other teams may eventually covet him for their second spot.
Miguel Gonzalez didn’t roll to nearly the same extent for Baltimore, but the Rays were just barely missing against him. They finally broke through in the sixth inning. After Gonzalez issued a two-out to Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings also drew a base on balls to force him out of the game. Kevin Cash then pinch-hit for Kevin Kiermaier with Brandon Guyer as the Orioles brought in lefty Brian Matusz.
The move worked to perfection as Guyer laid off a pair of tough curveballs to draw another walk to load the bases before Logan Forsythe worked back from being down 1-2 to earn a bases-loaded walk. The Rays did not picture taking the lead on four walks, but credit them for excellent at-bats and not trying to do too much. Matusz’s fastball wasn’t there–it didn’t hit 90 MPH a single time after averaging 91-92 MPH last season–and they refused to chase any of his secondary pitches.
The Rays certainly won the walk battle in this game, drawing 8 against 7 strikeouts. The Orioles, in contrast, struck out 13 times against just one walk. The Orioles don’t need to walk too much because of their power, but the opposite is true for the Rays–walks will be a huge part of their offense. If they can continue being disciplined, it will help them score the number of runs they need to support their pitchers.
Speaking of the 13 Orioles strikeouts, the Rays got to that number as Kevin Jepsen struck out the side in the eighth inning and Brad Boxberger did the same in the ninth. The Rays miss Jake McGee, but they have no shortage of electric high-leverage arms. In between their outings, Desmond Jennings got the Rays a more legitimate run as he singled home Evan Longoria, who had doubled. Longoria is now 3 for 8 (.375) to begin the year with a homer, a double, and 4 walks.
The Tampa Bay Rays have plenty of reason for excitement after their first win, and they hope that plenty more are still to come. Their next game is Friday at 7:10 PM against the Miami Marlins, and we will have to see whether Erasmo Ramirez or Matt Andriese takes the ball against the Marlins’ Dan Haren.