Erasmo faced his former team for the first time since being acquired by the Rays this season and was solid, allowing seven hits and a walk over 5-1/3 innings, but just one run. While he got himself into a couple of jams throughout the course of his start, Ramirez was able to escape most of them, with exception of the fifth inning when the Mariners scored their sole run.
In that frame, Dustin Ackley reached on a single up the middle, then moved to third on a base-hit by Austin Jackson. Robinson Cano plated the run two batters later, consequently breaking up the shutout. Yet Ramirez was able to limit the damage by picking off Cano with runners at the corners, then getting Kyle Seager to bounce to second to end the inning after walking Nelson Cruz.
Ramirez was lifted after throwing only 72 pitches (50 strikes, 69% K%, 13.6 pitches per inning), following a strikeout out Mark Trumbo, beginning a parade of relievers. Here is where I disagree with Rays manager Kevin Cash. First and foremost, with the team coming off an extra inning contest, you’d like to see your starter go a little deeper into the game. To that end, Erasmo didn’t pitch poorly and he was pulled with the sixth and seventh hitters due — a duo (Seth Smith and Brad Miller) who combined to go 1-4 with a single previously.
When you consider that Xavier Cedeno, who entered first, allowed a 2-2 double to start his outing, you get the feeling that Ramirez could have at least finished the inning. It was one of those situations where the relievers were used in the moment, not because they needed to be, rather because Cash decided to hedge his bets and play the matchup.
True, Cash was managing in the moment and perhaps he saw a quirk in Ramirez. However, looking into the future and assuming the Rays will be relevant in August and September, the decision to burn through the bullpen in the early goings could prove costly.
Cedeno was able to get Brad Miller to ground to second before departing. Brandon Gomes, the third pitcher of the inning, struck out Mike Zunino to end the threat. Gomes returned in the seventh and put up a scoreless frame. The righty worked around a one-out single from Austin Jackson thanks to Logan Forsythe, who took away a hit from Cano with a diving stop.
Cash called it a game-saving play:
It changed the whole inning, and probably the outcome of the game.
Forsythe discussed the play after the game:
I just thought I was in a decent position and when I got to it I tried to get the glove behind it. I saw Austin kind of hesitate because it was more of a line drive … so I knew we had one at second at least.
Jake McGee, who worked in back-to-back games for the first time since returning from the DL, started the eighth and allowed a one-out single to Trumbo. McGee, however, was able to put down the next two batters, culminating in a strikeout of Brad Miller (looking) on an unexpected curve ball.
Since Brad Boxberger was unavailable after pitching 1-1/3 innings the day prior, Cash called upon Kevin Jepsen to close things out. Jepsen started his appearance on shaky ground by walking Zunino on five pitches. Willie Bloomquist entered to pinch-run. Ackley followed by laying down a beautiful sacrifice-bunt which moved Bloomquist into scoring position. Yet Jepsen struck out Jackson (swinging) for the second out, and then Cano (looking) on a 97 mph fastball to end the game — earning his second save.
Offensively speaking, Tampa Bay scored both of their runs in the fourth against LHP Roenis Elias. Joey Butler continued his toasty ways with a single to right, then advanced to second on an Evan Longoria grounder to second. Logan Forsythe was hit on the foot by an 0-2 pitch, then Butler and Forsythe executed a double steal. The Rays swiped three bags Thursday night. Steven Souza Jr. singled to center to put the team on the board. Jake Elmore followed by beating out a double-play ball to score the second run, with help from a good takeout slide at second by Souza.
The Mariners’ lefty was fantastic after that, allowing just two base-runners on singles over the next four innings. Longoria hit a one out double in the ninth against reliever Mark Lowe, though he was left stranded at third to end the threat and the inning.
The New What Next
Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 2.61) will start the second game of the four-game series, opposite of veteran southpaw J.A. Happ (3-1, 3.70 ERA). Odorizzi is 1-1 with a 0.69 ERA in two career starts against Seattle. Happ is 2-2 with a 5.35 ERA in eight career games against the Rays, including a no-decision on May 26, when he gave up seven hits and three runs in six innings. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 6/5/15 Starting Lineup
— Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) writes there is growing concern over Desmond Jennings, whose knee does not seem to be getting better:
After more than five weeks of rest, rehab and reported improvement following a diagnosis of bursitis, Jennings tried to play in an extended spring training game on Monday but felt the soreness again.
Jennings is scheduled to go to the Steadman Clinic in Colorado for another opinion at some point next week.
Cash conceded that there may be a more serious problem than bursitis:
(He is) frustrated by some soreness. Everybody has looked at it and can’t find exactly, (can’t) pinpoint, what’s going on. So hopefully this will provide a little clarity.
It’s not clear whether he’ll undergo a simple evaluation, if Jennings may need an exploratory arthroscopic procedure.
— Thursday was the AL-most 26th time (in 55 games total) the Tampa Bay Rays allowed two runs or fewer. They are 21-5 in those games.