Rays News

Tampa Bay Rays Game 127: Joey Butler Strong in Return

By Robbie Knopf

Joey Butler‘s demotion was self-inflicted–he was trying as hard as he could, but he ended up back at Triple-A because he simply wasn’t playing good enough baseball. However, he went down to Durham and did the right things, hitting to a .368/.442/.763 line with 4 homers, 9 RBI, and a 10-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 43 plate appearances, and he kept his hot hitting going in his first game back in the majors. Who knows how many more games like this are ahead for him, but the Tampa Bay Rays will take what they could get.

More from Rays Colored Glasses

Butler finished 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored that could not have been more critical in the game. The Rays entered the bottom of the sixth down 4-3 before Butler drilled a one-out RBI single, moved to third on a groundball, and scored on a passed ball. He turned back the clock to the middle of June, and once again, he was carrying the Rays’ offense. It was a little controversial when the Rays brought up Butler rather than Richie Shaffer or Mikie Mahtook, but you see a game like this and can have a little bit more hope that the Rays know what they are doing.

The other major offensive hero for the Rays was Logan Forsythe, who went 2 for 4 with a solo homer and two runs scored, and the duo of Daniel Nava and Kevin Kiermaier delivered multiple hits as well. The Rays also received a sac fly each from Evan Longoria and J.P. Arencibia–it is always better to score in more exciting ways and have bigger innings, but give them credit for hitting the ball to the outfield with runners on third base. We have seen the Rays falter in such situations far too often lately.

The bats were able to overcome a questionable outing from Drew Smyly. His 5-2 strikeout to walk ratio and 4-1 groundout to flyout ratio were nice, but his 4 runs, 3 earned, allowed on 8 hits in 4.1 innings was not. He threw a lot of pitches without finishing five frames–100 to be exact–and even his strikeouts came on less-than-overbearing pitches. Byron Buxton looked especially mesmerized by fastballs right down the middle. Smyly’s secondary pitches haven’t been sharp since he has come back, and hopefully that will soon change.

Luckily the Rays’ bullpen was incredible in this game. Brandon Gomes tossed 1.2 perfect innings with a strikeout, Alex Colome allowed a lone hit in 1.2 innings, striking out 2, and Brad Boxberger finally returned to dominance, striking out all 3 batters that he saw. He showed a more fastball-heavy approach and dotted the edges quite well. Hopefully this is the start of his turnaround.

The Tampa Bay Rays will hope to turn this one win into something more sustained as the Kansas City Royals come to town. Erasmo Ramirez will go up against Edinson Volquez in the series opener, but most notable will be Ben Zobrist‘s first game at the Trop as an active visiting player.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Could J.P. Arencibia Be the Next Spark?