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Tampa Bay Rays Game 26: Steven Souza Comes Alive

By Robbie Knopf

Steven Souza entered Monday’s Tampa Bay Rays game against the Boston Red Sox in some kind of slump. He went 0 for his last 17 with 12 strikeouts against just 1 walk as he moved into the major league lead in K’s by a batter. Rookies hit bumps in the road and some of them never get past them–would Souza be able to? We still don’t know for certain, but yesterday was a major step in the right direction.

Souza wasn’t the biggest hero for the Rays on the day. All he did was go 2 for 3 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and a run scored. He scored that run on David DeJesus‘ RBI single in the seventh inning that gave the Rays an insurance run in the seventh inning–but the first four runs by the team were more important. Even so, it is Souza’s performance that may have a bigger long-term impact for the Rays than anything else in this game. They need him to perform or they will need a major change, and luckily they can be more optimistic about that now.

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Jake Odorizzi started for the Tampa Bay Rays in this game and was excellent, going 7 innings allowing  1 run on 7 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. The run he allowed came on a Brock Holt triple followed by a Xander Bogaerts double in the second inning, but he could have allowed a lot more. He allowed a one-out double in the first inning, a leadoff double in the second, a two-out double in the third, and two hits to start the sixth, but in each case, he was able to escape. Some of that was luck from Odorizzi, but most of it was skill.

Odorizzi wound up throwing 110 pitches in a chilling juxtaposition with Sunday’s game. Kevin Cash let him provide length, and by doing so, he only needed to use Ernesto Frieri and Erasmo Ramirez in his bullpen. Of course, any rational person would trust Odorizzi more than Nate Karns at this point, but we can also say that Odorizzi easily could have pulled after 5+ innings after allowing those two baserunners yet Cash stuck with him. Every game is different, but he may have learned his lesson.

On the offensive side for the Rays, Joey Butler drilled his first major league homer, a two-run shot, Evan Longoria started the scoring with an RBI double in the first inning, and DeJesus finished with 2 RBI singles. DeJesus, Souza, Logan Forsythe, and Asdrubal Cabrera all delivered multi-hit games while Longoria and Butler both reached base twice. Imagine how good the Rays could be if they could deliver offense like this on any sort of consistent basis!

The 5-1 win takes the Tampa Bay Rays to 14-12, and they will send Drew Smyly to the hill against the Boston Red Sox’ Rick Porcello at 7:10 PM tonight.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: The Flaw in Kevin Cash’s Mindset