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Rays vs. Astros Series: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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The Rays are on a mini roll. They have won three series in a row and have shown the type of grit that is needed from a small market team.

Led by Evan Longoria, who has finally taken a leadership role on the field, the offense has at last become something other than a lineup that hits solo homeruns. The starting pitching has stopped having early inning blow ups and the team has benefited from the lights out work of closer Alex Colome. However, as the Astros series reveals, the ship has not been completely righted.

Sunday’s 5-0 victory over Houston in the final game of the series was a perfect example of how the Rays should play. It was a flat out good win. Matt Moore came out of the box smoking hot and pitched seven innings of no run, two hit baseball. If that wasn’t enough, the Rays put together a five run fifth inning without a home run.

A double, an error, two walks and two singles including a clutch two run hit by Mikie Mahtook got the job done. All of that action took the load off the back end of the bullpen as Enny Romero and Tyler Sturdevant got the last six outs.

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The first game of the series on Friday was a win but you couldn’t feel too good about how the Rays pulled it off.

The game started off with a bang as the Rays turned two doubles, two singles, and two walks into four runs over the first two innings.

Again, the Rays showed great situational hitting. Matt Andriese was not sharp but he held the Astros scoreless over the first five innings.

Then, in the sixth inning, the wheels came off the bus. A double and a home run gave the Astros three runs and chased Andriese.

That forced the Rays to go to their already overworked trio of Erasmo Ramirez, Xavier Cedeno and Alex Colome. Between the three of them, they threw 58 pitches and only great play by Brad Miller and Steve Pearce on a groundball deep in the hole and great catch at first base saved the game.

A win is a win but games like this show the Rays difficulty to score tack on runs and the inability of starting pitchers to go deep in the game. It also exposes the overuse of the bullpen.

Saturday’s game started out well for the Rays. Chris Archer was on top of his game and in the bottom of the third Brad Miller hit a laser shot solo home run. Then some old familiar issues started to arise. In the top of the forth, the Astros hit a solo home run to tie the score.

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How many times have we seen the Rays take the lead and give it right back in the next inning? Archer pitched into the eighth inning but gave up a home run and was out of the game.

With the score tied 2-2,the usually reliable Erasmo Ramirez enters the game. Sadly, it wasn’t his night and a walk, a hit batter and a wild pitch later, the Astros had a 3-2 lead. Cash, who has been criticized for babying his starters, seems to have no problems overworking his backend relievers and this time it bit him. In the next inning, the totally unreliable Dana Eveland gave up a home run in the ninth and the Rays were down 4-2.

However the Rays weren’t done yet and mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth. They loaded the bases with nobody out and Steven Souza Jr. then plated the third run with a sacrifice fly. That left runners on second and third with only one out.

A sacrifice fly would have tied the game and any kind of hit would have won it. The only problem is that the next hitter was Desmond Jennings. I closed my eyes and hoped that the enviable would not happen, but it did as Jennings grounded into a double play and the Rays lost 4-3.

The Astros’s series has proven once again that too many times the difference between a victory and a loss is razor thin. A challenging play in the infield preserves a win but an off night by a usually reliable reliever leads to a loss.

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However, as Sunday night’s win demonstrated, the Rays do have the talent to dominate a game. So, hang onto your seats because it’s going to be a wild rest of the season.

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