Who had Erasmo Ramirez as the starting pitcher who would stop the Tampa Bay Rays’ skid? The Rays’ starters have admittedly been excellent even while the team has been losing, but if there was any starter who would deviate from that, Ramirez would seem to be the guy. Instead, Ramirez looked better than ever and was accompanied by decent offense and solid relief work. Between everyone’s efforts, the Rays broke their six-game losing streak, returned to .500, and pulled back within half a game in the AL East.
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The Tampa Bay Rays’ bats got going at the outset of the game, and though they went back to nonexistence later on, their early outburst proved to be enough. Brandon Guyer opened the first inning with a double off Wei-Yin Chen, aggressively moved up to third on a groundball in front of him, and scored on an Evan Longoria sac fly. The Rays have been terrible with runners in scoring position, but step one to getting on track is to take advantage when an out is enough to score a run. It was great to see Longoria start off the game by seizing the opportunity given to him by Guyer.
The Rays’ next two runs were more exciting as Steven Souza Jr. and Joey Butler each drilled solo home runs to the opposite field. We know about Souza’s power, and Butler isn’t far behind, albeit with worse grades in the bat speed and plate approach departments. Souza also drew a walk in the game as he has looked great in his two games since getting past his wrist issue. Butler, meanwhile, went 2 for 3 and is having himself a great time in his longest-ever big league stint. He also delivered a bullet to Rene Rivera to cut down Steve Clevenger at the plate in the fifth inning.
Erasmo Ramirez needed some help from Butler in the fifth, but he did the rest all by himself. He began the game with a 1-2-3 inning, but it wasn’t pretty as he allowed a line drive and a flyball to the track. Either the locations of his pitches would have to be better or his results would take a drastic turn for the worse. Luckily for the Rays, Ramirez only improved as the game went on, good enough that even taking him out was a little controversial.
Ramirez went 7 innings allowing no runs on 3 hits, striking out 7 while walking 1. His groundout to flyout ratio was 8-2 as the hard contact came almost exclusively in that first inning. Ramirez did his best Jake Odorizzi impression as he was able to retire hitters on both elevated fastballs and changeups in the dirt. He even found strong results in his limited use of his slider and curveball. The Rays made two big adjustments to Ramirez’s approach: more changeups to same-side batters and more fastballs up. His first two games were disastrous, but the shifts have paid off ever since.
Ramirez threw just 84 pitches, yet Kevin Cash took him out in favor of Brandon Gomes for the eighth inning. It would have been cool to see if Ramirez could continue succeeding, but at the end of the day, he already had reason to be excited and the Rays bullpen needed some confidence of its own. Gomes tossed a 1-2-3 frame before Brad Boxberger entered the game in the ninth and also retired all three batters he saw. Hopefully his recent problems will not resurface again and he will resume being one of the better relievers in baseball.
The next step for the Tampa Bay Rays will be to win their three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles at 1:35 PM EST tomorrow. Jake Odorizzi will hope to continue his dominance–and finally get some run support–as he takes on struggling Orioles ace Chris Tillman.