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Tampa Bay Rays Game 42: First Place Alone, At Long Last

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For the first time in the 2015 MLB season, the Tampa Bay Rays are by themselves at the top of the AL East standings. While the New York Yankees had a day off, the Rays went ahead and shut out the Oakland Athletics by a 3-0 score to go a half-game up in the division. Alex Colome rebounded after a couple of bad outings while David DeJesus led the way at the plate.

Colome’s outing got off to inauspicious start. He got ahead of Billy Burns 0-2 with a pair of fastballs, but he was unable to put him away even as he resorted to his changeup and slider in addition to the heater. The at-bat got to eight pitches before Burns saw a slider up and drilled it to right-center. Because Steven Souza Jr. was playing shallow against the speedster Burns, the ball got past him and end up going for a triple. Marcus Semien followed with a flyball to deep center for a sacrifice fly…only it wasn’t, and that altered the course of Colome’s outing.

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Burns made a crucial baserunning error, failing to score on Semien’s flyball, and Colome seemed to settle in right afterwards. He was able to escape the inning unscathed by forcing Josh Reddick to ground out right to James Loney and Billy Butler to bounce to Evan Longoria. Starting with Semien’s flyball, he retired 11 of the next 12 batters he faced to get him to two outs in the fourth inning. He then allowed a groundball single to Stephen Vogt and a walk to Max Muncy before Nick Franklin was unable to field Brett Lawrie‘s hotshot to short for an infield single. Colome stayed composed, however, and got out of that jam by forcing Sam Fuld to ground out to first after just one pitch.

Colome struck out 2 in his final inning to finish with 5 innings allowing no runs on 4 hits, striking out 3 while walking 1. It would have been nice if he had been able to work into the sixth inning, something he has done just once in his five starts this season, but maybe this game will wind up being similar to Jake Odorizzi‘s start on May 9th of last year. In that game, Odorizzi once again couldn’t make it to the sixth inning, but looked very good in five frames. He appeared to break through, and it was in his next outing that he finally did eclipse that sixth inning threshold.

The Tampa Bay Rays held a 1-0 lead when Alex Colome departed, tallying their lone score in the fourth inning. Evan Longoria drew a leadoff walk against Jesse Chavez before Chavez rebounded to get James Loney and Logan Forsythe on weak contact in the air. David DeJesus’ hit, however, was anything but weak as he drilled it to the gap in left-center. Longoria, who was running on contact with two outs, came all the way around to score.

After Steve Geltz and Kevin Jepsen followed Colome with scoreless innings, DeJesus was at it again against Chavez, drilling a first-pitch fastball in the wrong spot for a rocket home run. What a lift DeJesus has been for this team, and it is scary to imagine what would have happened had the Rays found a suitor for him when they were looking to trade him as late as March.

Brandon Guyer then gave the Rays an insurance run later in the inning as he singled to the opposite field, stole both second and third, and scored on a Bobby Wilson groundout. Guyer made Vogt look incompetent behind the plate for the second time in the game–the other was in the first inning, when Souza Jr. took a strikeout looking but Vogt gave up a passed ball to allow him to reach. In any event, the steals took Guyer to 5 stolen bases, second on the team, and he has been caught only once. With Desmond Jennings out, he may be the Rays’ best basestealer.

Jake McGee struck out 2 in a perfect eighth before Brad Boxberger worked around 2 hits with 2 strikeouts in the ninth to seal the Rays’ 3-0 lead. The win takes them to 23-19, and they will take on the A’s again tomorrow, with Chris Archer taking on ex-Rays ace Scott Kazmir at 7:10 PM EST.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Colome Is Running Out of Excuses

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