Rays follow their script to another victory

by Gary Shelton on September 4, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Kiermaier had a single, double and a triple./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier had a single, double and a triple./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

By now, they know the steps. The formula is familiar. The results are, too.

The Tampa Bay Rays continue to win, following a familiar blueprint to get past another opponent. Tampa Bay rose to 11 games above .500 -- the first time since 2013 -- with a 7-1 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

The script? You get a nice opening inning from a pitcher. You score early. You get an excellent performance from your second pitcher -- one with length to it. You get a kid-led lineup. You follow up with another pitcher. You play good pitchers. You ignore the standings. And you outscore the opponent.

And just like that, and the Rays have won again.

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Chirinos allowed only one run in seven innings./JEFFREY S. KING

Chirinos allowed only one run in seven innings./JEFFREY S. KING

Tampa Bay made it 12 wins in their last 14 games Monday night, getting three hits from Kevin Kiermaier (a single, a double, a triple) and from Joey Wendle (who now has his average up to .302). Matt Duffy had two hits and two RBI in the game.

Pitcher Yonny Chirinos had a wobbly start with two walks and a single in his first inning. But he allowed only four hits and no other runs in his seven innings of work. His catcher, making his major league debut, was Nick Ciuffo,  yet another prized prospect for the team.

Wendle brought his average above .300./CARMEN MANDATO

Wendle brought his average above .300./CARMEN MANDATO

“When (Chirinos) is  going good, that’s kind of what we’ve seen," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He’s very, very efficient. What impressed me was that he didn't look so good when he first went into the game in the second. He couldn’t find his command for whatever reason. For a young pitcher, that has a tendency to snowball and carry over. Give him lot of credit for coming back to the dugout, and taking a deep breath, and getting into the zone and allowing his defense to make double play after double play. Yonny did his part  and the defense did theirs.

“The run they scored was on him with the free passes. He realized that he’s got to trust his stuff and do everything he can to get the ball over the plate. Once he got in that rhythm, he did well."

Duffy knocked in two runs for Tampa Bay./JEFFREY S. KING

Duffy knocked in two runs for Tampa Bay./JEFFREY S. KING

The Rays have now outscored opponents 72-37 in their last 14 games. They have three of the top 11 hitters for average in the league with Mallex Smith (.306), Wendle (.302) and Matt Duffy (.299).

"It's been fun," Cash said. "Since Smith went down, we've really pieced it together. We've had a lot of people provide a big boost for us.  There's some of the usual suspects, but there's one or two every night who step up."

Smith returned to the field on Monday night. "I'm just joining the train," he said.

Chirinos is now 3-5 on the season.

"You have to give all the credit to Yonny," Ciuffo said. "It was unbelievable what he did."

Kiermaier says he has pressed since coming off the disabled list. Now, he said, he's trying to keep it simple.

 "We’re not where we want to be yet, but we’re getting there," Kiermaier said. "If we come out and take it one game at a time... Right now, we have a lot of fight left in us. It’s been a fun ride.  I don’t think too many teams want to see us right now."

The Rays play the Blue Jays again tonight. Ryne Stanek will again open for Tampa Bay. He'll oppose Ryan Borucki at 7:07 p.m.





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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry September 4, 2018 at 9:52 am

Well you are right about Yarbrough’s stats. He comes in after the opener and can get the win without having to pitch the 5 inning minimum required for a starter. That statistic I don’t think is a good measure of how effective the opener strategy has been. The overall benefits of the opener strategy are subject to debate. It seems to have helped the Rays in their particular circumstance so good for them.

I think at times the Rays can carry the strategy too far. My point about Chirinos is that if he is able to pitch 7 innings as effectively as in last night’s game then he has earned the right to be a starter. He may not have been capable of doing that at the beginning of the year but he’s evolved to the point where using an opener for him has very little if any benefits. I don’t see how anyone can dispute that.

On the other hand if it’s not broke don’t fix it. The Rays may not want to change their formula while they are in this hot streak. Once they get eliminated from the playoffs then at that point there is no reason not to give Chirinos a chance to start.


Gary Shelton September 4, 2018 at 7:08 pm


An interesting discussion to me, all along, has been when these players graduate from the opener-second up pitcher to a bona fide starter.

You’re right. It’s only subjection whether Chirinos, Yarbrough or Beeks could flourish as a starter. You’re opinion is certainly as good as mine. For now, credit the players for buying in and for not whining when the Rays use as many as six a night.


Larry September 4, 2018 at 4:41 am

You always give us a lot of stats in your writings but this one stopped me in my tracks. The one about the Rays having 3 of the top 11 hitters for average in the league. The Rays?? The pitching and defense, we can’t afford offense Rays have that? What a crazy year.

So love the formula of an opener, a long inning guy and then a reliever or two. As long as it’s working, great. But really Gary, if a guy can pitch 7 innings of 1 run ball, shouldn’t he be a starter? Just asking.


Gary Shelton September 4, 2018 at 8:39 am

Larry, one of the new metrics is to limit the number of times a pitcher sees a hitter. Shaving an inning or two off the start usually means that’s one less time he has to face the meat of the order.

I’m with you. I like the traditional starter going as long as he can. But I’ll admit that this has worked far better than I thought. No way Yarbrough has 13 wins as a traditional starter, is there?


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