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Tampa Bay Rays Game 37: Was Jake Odorizzi Left In Too Long?

By Robbie Knopf
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Jake Odorizzi has been excellent for the Tampa Bay Rays this season, and his start on Friday will wind up being his seventh quality start in eight tries. This time, however, he had to be better than that and was unable to deliver. After six strong innings, Odorizzi had a rough seventh and that was enough for the Rays to fall 3-2 to the Minnesota Twins.

Let’s set the stage for that seventh inning situation. The Rays entered the frame up 2-1 after scoring on a David DeJesus solo homer and a Kevin Kiermaier RBI single. Jake Odorizzi had thrown 99 pitches through six innings, allowing a Brian Dozier solo homer back in the third for the lone run. He cruised through the fourth and fifth innings before working around a first-and-second, no-out jam in the sixth. He was pitching relatively well, but he had not thrown more than 110 pitches all season and had topped 103 only once.

Also pertinent were the hitters due up in the inning. The first two hitters coming to the plate, Aaron Hicks and Danny Santana, were each 0 for 2 with a strikeout against Odorizzi. Hicks had only just been recalled from the minors while Santana entered the game with just a .598 OPS. Dozier was due up third in the inning and there was reason for Odorizzi to be removed before he saw him again, but Hicks and Santana weren’t exactly formidable hitters.

Here are the sides to the debate regarding whether Kevin Cash should have left Jake Odorizzi in, and you can pick whichever perspectives you like the most. 1) Odorizzi was reaching his pitch count and had nothing to gain coming out for the seventh. 2) You had to like Odorizzi against Hicks and Santana, and you never want to use your bullpen until you have to. 3) It was worth taking a chance to see how Odorizzi would come through in a high-pressure situation. 4) The bullpen was coming off a night off thanks to Erasmo Ramirez and Matt Andriese–why not go to it?

Cash decided that the benefits of leaving in Odorizzi outweighed the risks and was promptly burned for it. Odorizzi allowed a single to Hicks, which wasn’t that big of a deal, but then Santana’s RBI triple tied the game. Kevin Jepsen came in, but he only escaped the inning after allowing a sac fly by Dozier. Cash also could have taken out Odorizzi after Hicks’ single, but he was giving his starter a longer leash, perhaps because he wanted to show trust in him and build his confidence (along the lines of 3) above). Cash’s choice wasn’t clearly wrong, but it certainly didn’t work.

None of this would have made much of a difference if the Rays had shown more offensively against Phil Hughes and the Twins. The Rays stranded a runner each in the third, fourth, and fifth innings against Hughes and were unable to score Tim Beckham from second base after he got there with one out in the eighth against Blaine Boyer. The Rays rallied with two outs in the ninth, getting a single each from Brandon Guyer and Asdrubal Cabrera, but they failed to score one last time.

The loss takes the Tampa Bay Rays to 20-17, and they will look for more offense and/or even sharper pitching in their next contest. That will come at 2:10 PM EST tomorrow as Alex Colome takes the hill against Trevor May.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Every Other Year for Jake McGee

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