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Tampa Bay Rays Game 118: Offense Has Its Way With Kazmir

By Robbie Knopf
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The Tampa Bay Rays continue to drive everyone crazy. Just when they lose three games in a row and it looks like they are beginning to fall behind the pack, they head into Houston to take on the first-place Astros and pull off a game like this. Ex-Rays ace Scott Kazmir was no match for his former team as the Rays got him early and tacked on additional runs against him and the Houston bullpen to make this one into a laugher.

Kazmir finished with 5.1 innings allowing 6 runs on 9 hits, striking out 6 while walking 3. He retired the first two batters he saw before Evan Longoria singled, Logan Forsythe walked, and Asdrubal Cabrera singled to give the Rays a 1-0 lead. Kazmir then got ahead 0-2 on Tim Beckham, but fans had to be satisfied with the fact that their team had put together a nice two-out rally even if Beckham was retired as expected. Instead, Kazmir hanged the second of back-to-back changeups and Beckham drilled it for a three-run homer.

We could say something about Beckham, the Rays’ first overall pick from 2008, homering off of Kazmir, who was last the Rays’ ace in that 2008 season. On the other hand, Beckham’s heroics really ended there as he finished 1 for 5 with a pair of errors at second base. This was far from his banner game, and fans aren’t leaving it thinking “Whoa, this Beckham could really be an impact guy.” But maybe that is why the homer was so important.

After a series with the Rangers where the likes of Chris Gimenez, Ryan Strausborger, and Delino DeShields Jr. did the Rays in, it was great to see one of the team’s low-profile players deliver a huge hit to help it pull away from the Astros. This game went differently from the contests of that Rangers series because the Rays had a nobody contribute to go along with the performances of Longoria, Cabrera, and Forsythe.

Longoria finished this game 3 for 5 with 2 runs scored while Cabrera went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI and 2 runs and Forsythe went 1 for 3 with 2 walks and 2 runs. Curt Casali also drove in 2 runs while John Jaso pinch-hit for Brandon Guyer (who went 1 for 3 with a run) in the sixth and singled off reliever Josh Fields to give the Rays a 6-2 lead. Also having a big game was Daniel Nava, who went 3 for 5 with a run scored even though he was batting from his weaker right side. Let’s not read too much into one game, but that was intriguing nonetheless.

On the pitching side, Erasmo Ramirez finished with 5.2 innings allowing 2 runs on 6 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2 as well. He allowed one run in the second inning on Beckham’s throwing error after Evan Gattis‘ single (although the run was earned because it was determined that Carlos Gomez would have scored anyway the way that the inning was going) before Gattis’ homer narrowed the Rays’ lead to 4-2. Luckily Ramirez was able to strand a pair of baserunners in the fifth before Steve Geltz helped him do the same in the sixth.

Ramirez received mediocre results from his best two secondary pitches, his changeup and slider, but he was able to survive that to give the Rays a solid outing. Geltz then tossed 1.1 perfect innings with 2 strikeouts, generating a pair of whiffs on his splitter, before Brandon Gomes struck out 2 in a perfect eighth. Gomes showed yet another spin on his new approach, pitching primarily of his splitter rather than his slider to keep the Astros off-balance.

According to Brooks Baseball, Gomes threw his splitter seven times among his 13 pitches while mixing in his slider, curveball, and fastball twice each. He actually threw both of his sliders among his three pitches to the righty-hitting Carlos Gomez while sticking with the split against Jed Lowrie and Colby Rasmus, both lefty swingers. Lefties have given Gomes a problem historically and it is nice to see the Rays come up with a way to counteract that by shifting his pitch usage almost entirely.

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Finally, recent call-up Enny Romero entered the game for the ninth and had his moments, reaching 99.7 MPH according to Pitch F/X (the stadium gun had him at 99 MPH). His velocity was electric, although the concern is always going to be whether he can consistently know where it’s going. It was nice to see him get weak swings on his slider and overpower Jake Marisnick and Chris Carter with heaters, but he also walked Gattis on four pitches and allowed hard contact to Jose Altuve, who got a single for his efforts, and Marwin Gonzalez, who flew out to end the game. He finished with strikes on just 12 of the 23 fastballs that he threw.

In any event, the Tampa Bay Rays have to be pleased with this win, which took them to 4-0 on the season against Houston, and are hoping that it can get them going again. On Tuesday, Jake Odorizzi will take on Scott Feldman in a game set to begin at 8:10 PM EST.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays MLB/MiLB Recap: Alec Sole Goes 4 for 4

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