Tampa Bay Rays Game 18: Erasmo Ramirez, Late Rally Key Win


The Tampa Bay Rays’ chances of winning on Saturday were questionable even before their game against the Toronto Blue Jays began. The reason was simple: they were sending Erasmo Ramirez to the mound. Maybe Rays fans were overreacting to a small sample size, but after Ramirez had failed to fool anyone in two of his first three appearances with the team, it seemed controversial that the Rays were giving him another chance. The consensus was that he should be designated for assignment or demoted to long relief–no one thought he would start again.

The game didn’t begin well for Ramirez or the Rays. With one out, Devon Travis doubled, and he quickly scored on Josh Donaldson‘s RBI single. However, this was not a case where Ramirez’s first inning was indicative of how his outing as a whole would go. With the help of a 5-4-3 double play in the third inning, Ramirez went 4 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2. His groundout to flyout ratio was 6-0 as he built on the 64.0% groundball that was the one positive thing from his season entering the game.

Kevin Cash removed Erasmo Ramirez from the game after 58 pitches. Part of that stemmed from the fact that Ramirez had thrown only eight pitches in the previous nine days, but there was certainly an element of distrust there. Cash and the Rays had reason to doubt that Ramirez could continue performing well for another frame. Even so, Ramirez’s outing was a major confidence builder for him and increases the strength of the Rays’ conviction that Ramirez can be an effective pitcher for them this season. Both sides needed that.

Ramirez pitched well, Brandon Gomes followed with two shutout innings, and Ernesto Frieri struck out the side in his frame, but the Tampa Bay Rays found themselves down 2-1 after the top of the eighth inning. Daniel Norris had held them to a bloop RBI double by Evan Longoria in the first inning and Steve Geltz allowed a Russell Martin solo homer to give Toronto the lead. Roberto Osuna struck out both Steven Souza and Asdrubal Cabrera to begin the bottom of the eighth, and the Rays’ chances of winning the game appeared slim despite the positives.

Evan Longoria then singled off Osuna, his fourth of the game, to give the Rays a two-out baserunner. With David DeJesus due up, the Blue Jays made an extremely sensible move, bringing in lefty Brett Cecil. Desmond Jennings needed to leave the game in the seventh inning with left knee soreness and DeJesus entered the game to replace him. DeJesus had been excellent to begin the season for the Rays, but he has been weak against left-handed batters for years now and the Rays had not a single right-handed batter on their bench to replace him.

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The Blue Jays clearly had an advantage, but advantages don’t always mean victory. DeJesus hit a groundball past Devon Travis and into right field, and suddenly the Rays had a threat going. Toronto reacted by bringing in its closer, Miguel Castro, to face Logan Forsythe, but that proved to be a critical mistake. Had the Jays kept Cecil in, the Rays may have never pinch-hit for Forsythe with James Loney. Instead, in came Loney to face a right-handed pitcher and give the Rays as good of a matchup as they possibly could have hoped for in that situation. Loney drilled an RBI double to tie the game before Tim Beckham put the Rays ahead with a two-run double.

Jennings’ departure looms as a specter over this Tampa Bay Rays win, but it was otherwise extremely satisfying. Their starter was solid, the bullpen did its job, Longoria lived up to his reputation, and the clutch hits kept coming. That is a winning formula that the Rays will hope to utilize more often in the coming days and weeks. The Rays will take on the Blue Jays one more time at 1:10 PM tomorrow with Chris Archer going up against Mark Buehrle.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Erasmo Ramirez and Reading Too Much Into Small Samples