There is a certain point where you say that the good teams find ways to win while the bad teams find ways to lose. Saturday’s game left you thinking, “Hey, that was some win by the Tampa Bay Rays.” The Oakland Athletics don’t have a closer these days, but that hasn’t stopped the Rays from losing before. Five different pitchers with ERAs above 4.50 this season–Chris Martin, Neftali Feliz, Joe Beimel, Jean Machi, and Fernando Rodney–have recorded saves against the Rays in 2015. But this time, the Rays went up against a sub-par A’s bullpen and found a way to come back.
Through five innings, the Rays held a 2-1 lead thanks to solid pitching from Erasmo Ramirez and solo homers from Logan Forsythe and John Jaso. The A’s did get an RBI double by Josh Phegley off Ramirez in the second inning, but Desmond Jennings delivered an outfield assist in the first inning, getting the ball quickly to Asdrubal Cabrera, who unleashed a strong throw home to prevent Josh Reddick from scoring. Ramirez also gave up a baserunner in the third inning and two in the fourth, but he delivered his first 1-2-3 frame in the fifth inning and it looked like he might be settling in.
Instead, Oakland rallied against Ramirez in the sixth and it seemed like a frustrating loss was ahead. Ramirez allowed a solo homer to Mark Canha, who had hit the double on which Reddick had attempted to score, and after Brett Lawrie doubled, Phegley drilled a two-run home run to make it 4-2 A’s. Ramirez did retire the final five batters he saw, finishing with 4 runs allowed on 8 hits in 7 innings pitched.
The way that Ramirez’s outing ended was frustrating, but before it concluded, Asdrubal Cabrera was already working to get the Rays back into the game, drilling a solo home run in the top of the seventh. It would be Cabrera and another red-hot Ray that took over in the game’s final three innings. The Rays received a one-out walk from Daniel Nava off Pat Venditte in the ninth followed by a Forsythe double before Cabrera delivered an opposite-field two-run double off Drew Pomeranz to give the Rays a 5-4 lead. Then Alex Colome tossed a perfect ninth in his second inning of work to finish the Rays’ 5-4 win.
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Cabrera began the season in extremely rough fashion, but he has spent the last two months going from one of the Rays’ most disappointing hitters to one of their very best. The Rays’ adjustment to his defense at the beginning of the season worked to perfection, and it turned out that his offensive breakthrough simply needed a little bit of extra time to get started. Cabrera began the season as the Rays’ number three hitter in their batting order, and though he has settled in nicely into the sixth spot, it may be only a matter of time until the Rays start batting him higher up in the order again. The second spot may be an especially good fit.
In the case of Colome, meanwhile, we were saying even at the peak of his starting struggles that he had the capacity to be an excellent reliever, and that is exactly what he has been in his last 9 appearances and 14.1 innings pitched. In that span, his ERA is a ludicrous 0.63 to go along with an 18-2 strikeout to walk ratio. His mid-90’s fastball and slider/cutter have overpowered opposing hitters, and he can even throw multiple innings. The Rays have been careful in using Colome–he still hasn’t pitched on back-to-back days–but especially with Jake McGee hurt, he could into a huge part of this Rays bullpen.