Rene Rivera‘s start to 2015 entering Thursday was something out of the Jose Molina playbook, although probably from when Molina was a few years younger. His defense was spectacular as he was throwing out runners attempting to steal, blocking balls in the dirt, and (of course) framing pitches, but he wasn’t hitting at all. His .126/.178/.200 line wasn’t going to cut it. However, the difference between Rivera and Molina is that Rivera had shown that he could do more in his breakout 2014 with the Padres. On Thursday, he flashed that potential again.
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Rivera did a nice job with the Rays’ pitchers in this game, but we’ll talk about that in a few minutes. First, let’s talk about his bat. After James Loney‘s RBI single gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Rivera followed with a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw from New York Yankees reliever Esmil Rogers. Rivera also delivered an RBI single as he finished 2 for 4 with 4 RBI. He is still hitting .141, but now there is reason for optimism. He has more power than past Rays catchers, and the Rays need him to show it more frequently.
Also impressing for the Rays on offense were Steven Souza Jr., who had a pair of rocket doubles and 2 runs scored, and James Loney, who moved past his early-season struggles by going 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI. Loney entered the game with just a .222/.263/.347 line, but he is the last Rays hitter to worry about. He will rarely blow us away, but he has been so consistent in his career. Souza, on the other hand, has had plenty of peaks and valleys in his young career, but it is nice to see him turning it on again.
Now we can finally talk about the pitching. Erasmo Ramirez started for the Rays and was on a strict pitch count after not throwing even 60 pitches since April 15th. He would up throwing 68, but luckily for the Rays, he was quite efficient. He tossed 5 shutout innings allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 4. He also forced an impressive 4-1 groundout to flyout ratio. Ramirez now has a 1.42 ERA and a 14-3 strikeout to walk ratio in 19 innings since April 19th. Since a rough start, he has looked like the pitcher the Rays thought they were acquiring.
Ramirez should now be given a chance to hold onto the Rays’ fifth starter job for a while, although Matt Andriese gave him a run for his money in this game. Andriese recorded his second career save by tossing the last 4 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking none. Alex Rodriguez did hit an opposite-field solo home run to get the Yankees within 6-1 in the ninth, but Andriese was able to work around everything else. He was making a concerted effort to throw more fastballs up with good results on the whole.
Overall, it was a sleek win for the Rays as they only used two pitchers and got the clutch hits they needed on offense. For once, they looked great with runners in scoring position, going 4 for 9 (.444). The victory gives them three victories in their four games against the Yankees as they turned around their rough results against New York earlier in the season. Next, the Rays will head to Minnesota to take on ex-Yankee Phil Hughes at 8:10 PM EST on Friday. Jake Odorizzi will take the ball for the Rays and hope to shutdown the upstart Twins.