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Tampa Bay Rays Game 90: Red-Hot Rene Rivera Lifts Rays

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Rene Rivera was supposed to be an offensive improvement for the Tampa Bay Rays at catcher after a breakout season with the San Diego Padres that saw him hit to a .252/.319/.432 line with 11 home runs. His results have instead been much worse than expected, but that may finally be beginning to change. In his last 63 plate appearances, Rivera has a .271/.286/.492 line with 4 doubles, 3 homers, and 11 RBI in 17 games. And in his last 33 PA’s, he has upped that to .323/.333/.581, including a critical hit on Saturday.

The Rays scored all of their runs against Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros in the second inning. They had a runner on first with two outs when Asdrubal Cabrera drilled a double. Jake Elmore then worked a walk before Rivera came through with a big two-run single to make it 2-0 Rays. Then Brandon Guyer‘s RBI base hit gave the Rays a 3-0 advantage. Keuchel worked 5 more innings without allowing another run, but the damage was done and the Rays’ pitching staff ensured that their team’s lead never got smaller.

The one negative in that inning was that Cabrera was clearly in pain after scoring and wound up exiting the game with a strained right hamstring. Cabrera later told reporters that he was feeling fine after an initial jarring pain, so there is a chance that the injury will not be severe. The timing couldn’t be better no matter what the Rays decide to do since we are about to hit the All-Star Break. They could simply go with a shortened bench tomorrow, or they could put Cabrera on the 15-day DL and have him miss only eight games if he comes back at the earliest possible date.

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Jake Odorizzi had some control issues in his return from the disabled list, allowing 3 walks in 5.2 innings, but he allowed just 2 hits and struck out 5 as he kept the Astros off the board. He also forced a 7-3 groundout to flyout ratio as he continues to do a better job forcing weak contact on the ground after being an extreme flyball pitcher last year. Odorizzi retired the first seven hitters he saw and nine of the first 10 before allowing a single and two walks in the fourth. He escaped that jam and finished his outing with a strikeout of Colby Rasmus before Steve Geltz helped him finish the sixth inning. Odorizzi likely slots in as the Rays’ second best pitcher behind only Chris Archer at this point, and the Rays are excited to have him back.

After Geltz retired the only batter he faced, Jake McGee was next up and looked a little bit iffy in the second of back-to-back days. He was able to work around a hit and a walk to toss a scoreless inning even as his fastball was too often dipping down to 93 MPH. McGee threw one good low-70’s curveball, and hopefully he can start resorting to that pitch more when he doesn’t have his best velocity. It is clear that McGee still isn’t at 100% after elbow surgery, but the Rays need to use him more even if he won’t be able to throw in the high-90’s every game.

Kevin Jepsen tossed a perfect eighth inning and Brad Boxberger got around a walk in the ninth as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Astros 3-0 and got back to .500 at 45-45 on the season. They will hope for a sweep of Houston and momentum going into the All-Star Break as Matt Moore takes the mound against Tampa native Lance McCullers beginning at 1:10 PM EST. The Rays really need Moore to find himself–he has delivered questionable results in his first two starts back from Tommy John Surgery.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Justin O’Conner Is Coming Together

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