Call it overpowering and/or dominant; Drew Smyly put together another excellent start Wednesday night, one in which he held the Baltimore Orioles to one run on two hits in his fourth consecutive plus-quality start as a Ray. And while they left a good amount of chicken on the bone — going 2-8 wRISP — the Rays offense was able to do just enough to come out on the winning side of the ledger.
Smyly did what he’s been wont to do since joining the Rays starting rotation: throw strikes. Though he got into trouble early on by walking a runner in the first and leaving a four-seam fastball in Chris Davis’ wheelhouse — accounting for the Orioles only run of the night — Smyly was able to keep the Orioles hitters off balance by effectively changing the speed and location of his pitches. Because of it, the O’s hitters were limited to two hits overall, while Smyly retired 16 of the last 17 hitters who steeped into the box.
The 25 year-old LHP has lowered his ERA to an excellent 1.50 in five starts with the Rays, while racking up 29 strikeouts. Fun fact: Smyly is the second pitcher in Rays history to throw seven IP and allow two hits or fewer in back-to-back starts. (Victor Zambrano did it in 2003). His final line: 7 IP/2 H/1 ER/1 BB/6 K/85 pitches (58 strikes, 68% K%), 44 fastballs (22 strikes, 7 balls in play — only one without an out), three change-ups (3 strikes, 2 BIP — only one without an out), 26 sliders (19 strikes, 6 whiffs), 24 cutters (14 strikes, 3 whiffs).
All of the Rays run production came in the first and third innings, though, per usual, there were scoring opportunities a plenty throughout Kevin Gausman’s four innings of work. Ben Zobrist followed a quick out by Desmond Jennings with a double of the wall in right, moving to third on a wild pitch thrown by Gausman. Matt Joyce followed with a sharply hit grounder to Jonathan Schoop who attempted to throw Zobrist out at home. But his long throw was late, and Zobrist was able to score.
Evan Longoria continued the early rally with his first hit of the night — a single into left past shortstop JJ Hardy – which moved Joyce up to second. But on the following play, a James Loney single to right, Longoria committed the worst running blunder of the past two nights. Joyce advanced to third on Loney’s hit, but stopped. Longoria, however, rounded second and ran all the way to third base… And right into an out. Instead of bases loaded situation with just one out, the Rays had runners on the corners with two outs. While the mistake hurt the Rays, it did not prevent them from plating another run in the inning. Wil Myers, mired in some pretty inconsistent at-bats since his return from the DL, hit a bloop single to shallow right which scored Joyce from third and allowed Loney to move up to third. Yunel Escobar ended the inning by grounding into a fielder’s choice. The Rays scored an unearned, go-ahead run in the bottom of the third off Gausman.
Ryan Hanigan led off the inning by reaching on a rare errant throw by JJ Hardy. Desmond Jennings followed Kevin Kiermaier’s strikeout with a double to right, and both runners moved into scoring position with only one out. Ben Zobrist brought Hanigan home on a sac-fly to deep right.
While Smyly sailed through the game by putting together seven efficient innings, averaging just over 12 pitches per inning, Joe Maddon acknowledged in his post-game presser that he wanted to limit Drew to 90 pitches on the night. Because of it, Brad Boxberger came on in relief in the eighth, and (per usual) gutted the opposing batters. Though the Orioles got a baserunner with two outs on an Evan Longoria error, Boxberger was able to get out of the inning unscathed by coaxing a Nick Markakis comebacker for the third out of the inning. Jake McGee came in to shut down the game, setting down the Orioles with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Rays win, 3-1.
The New What Next
Tampa Bay looks to split the series Thursday night with Jeremy Hellickson on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Bud Norris. Norris (11-8, 3.91 ERA) was very good against Tampa Bay last season, posting a 1-1 record in 9-1/3 innings of work. His most impressive start came as an Astro, putting together a 7 IP/6 H/1 R outing against Roberto Hernadez. Norris’ change-up has vastly improved over previous seasons. It’s coaxed a modest number of whiffs (10.3%), and a hefty number of grounders (65.7%). His change-up pairs well with a plus slider. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 8/28/14 Starting Lineup
- Your tweet of the day:
#Rays Maddon on Smyly: “It’s just fun to watch. He’s got total command of what he’s doing. He’s utilizing all of his pitches.”
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) August 28, 2014
- Evan Longoria has 30 RBI in 36 games since All-Star break, 3rd most in AL over that span. Had 44 in first 97 games.
- I’m excited to announce that our next watch party will take place on Friday, September 12, when the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Per Fangraphs, there’s a 99.3% chance this will be our last watch party of the 2014 season — that is, unless the Rays somehow eke out a miracle (start offering your sacrifices to the baseball gods now). In any case, we’ve got a few different things up our sleeves, like raffles for free Rays, X-Rays Spex, and Green Bench Brewing Company swag. So copy down the date, and let’s have a blast!