Bullpen leads the Rays to another victory

by Gary Shelton on April 1, 2019 · 6 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Kiermaier congratulated after his home run./CHUCK MULLER

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Who says a team needs a great starting rotation?

For the Tampa Bay Rays, a successful start has starred a strong bullpen,

Kiermaier is hitting .333 so far this season./CHUCK MULLER

which once again was impressive in a 7-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.

In five games, the bullpen has thrown 21 innings and has allowed just one earned run. That came Monday night against Ryan Yarbrough, who was good enough to get the victory in a 4 1/3 inning performance. The bullpen has a 0.43 era on the season.

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Choi celebrates one of his two hits./CHUCK MULLER

Overall, the Rays have won as many games in their first five outings this season as they did in 17 games last season.

The Rays were led offensively by Kevin Kiermaier, who had a three-run homer and  knocked in four runs, and Brandon Lowe, whose two-run homer was his first hit of the season.

Stanek got the start for the Rays./CHUCK MULLER

Tampa Bay won behind its opener strategy, using six pitchers and giving up just one run. Cash was impressed with Yarbrough.

“He mixed really well and he had a pretty electric cutter that he was able to get in on the righties," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "He threw the ball well and made big pitches. He kept them off balance just enough, but the cutter was probably the impressive pitch that I recognized from the side tonight.”

Lowe's home run came after an 0-for-10 start for the season.

Lowe had his first hit of the season./CHUCK MULLER

“I’m sure it was good, but Brandon is so even-keeled with his emotions you don’t know up or down very often," Cash said. "But it —has to be good to get the first one out of the way. Obviously, it came at a crucial time — oppo (opposite field), fastball that he got and drove out. We talk about all the time he hits the ball the other way like some of the big right handers that we see. It was good for him and Willy (Adames) to get some knocks today.”

Kiermaier had a homer, a double and a sacrifice fly.

“He’s doing a lot of things to help us," Cash said. "I’m not too concerned

Pham ran his on-base streak to 37 games./CHUCK MULLER

about him proving himself. I think he’s already proven himself as a Major League player, and a really good one. I understand that he’s missed some time and he wants to get in there and impact the club which is a good thing. Tonight for him to separate the game was crucial.”

Yarbrough hopes the good start leads to a good season.

“It was good. Hopefully it’s something as a team one of many. We are playing some really good baseball and having a lot of fun out there. For me to get out there and continue to build my innings like that and go deeper in the games, hopefully I continue to do that and go deeper next time.”

A nosebleed couldn't stop Yarbrough.

Castillo finished off the Rockies in the ninth./CHUCK MULLER

“That was the weirdest experience I’ve ever had," Yarbrough said. "I probably looked like an idiot. My phone was blowing up with my buddies texting me stupidity so I can’t wait to go over those texts. It was something weird. A nose-bleed out of nowhere and I had to deal with. Thank God (Head Athletic Trainer) Joe Benge was right on top of it to keep me dry out there.”

Kiermaier likes the start that the Rays have gotten off to.

“It’s awesome," he said. "We sit here and talk in spring training about how good we can be. This is the start that we wanted to get to. You have to start with the pitching though. Other than the first game, credit to Houston for

Perez throws out Garrett Hampson on a bunt attempt./CHUCK MULLER

outscoring us there, but holding these quality teams to one run these last four games, unbelievable job on their part.

"All credit to them. They trust us to go out there and score more runs than the other team. I keep saying, ‘guys, I promise you. If you hold these opponents to one run or less, we will win a lot of games.’ Easier said than done, but it’s not surprising me. They gave us a taste of what they can do last year collectively as an unit. They have been out here carrying this team so far and making our job offensively pretty darn easy so far. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s fun playing behind these guys.”

The Rays play Colorado again tonight at 7:10 p.m. Blake Snell will start against the Rockies' Kyle Freeland.

Yarbrough gave up a run, but he got the win./CHUCK MULLER


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller April 3, 2019 at 6:45 am

I guess Font showed me last night. His best outing by far in any game since coming back from injury last year. I think the Rays want to stick with him because he was doing great last year before getting hurt which caused him to miss a big chunk of games. His spring was awful but maybe he’s figured some things out. I wish him well.

And I love what the Rays are doing on the field. I just hope management doesn’t over think things and get in the way of the players performing at their highest level. If the Rays don’t start Chirinos next time he has the right to be totally upset. What’s the guy have to do to earn a start? It’s a case of analytics getting in the way of what your eyes tell you is right.


Gary Shelton April 3, 2019 at 5:40 pm

Let’s wait and see if Chirinos starts, but let’s be careful not to base things on one game, whether it’s Chirnos and Font doing well or someone doing poorly. It’s a long season.

And isn’t it better we can suspect a franchise of overthinking? No one ever accused the Bucs of that.


Larry Beller April 2, 2019 at 5:26 pm

If they want to get the most out of their staff they would cut Font and Kolarek who are ineffective and taking up valuable roster spots. Font is on the team only because he is out of options but has had a terrible spring and performed poorly in his first outing. So did Kolarek. Both got a quick hook after failing to get out 1 batter.

If they would allow Chirinos and Yarbrough to start games and eat up more innings that would save the bullpen from covering so many innings. At that point they would maximize their staff.


Gary Shelton April 2, 2019 at 10:24 pm

Goodness, Larry. The Rays are 5-1. They won 90 games last year. Don’t fans have to trust them for a while? At least as long as they’re winning. Before the season is over, we’ll have plenty of room for second-guessing.

Hey, you may be right. Font was good Tuesday night, but who knows if it will last? But let’s let it play out. Remember, the Rays value matchups more that they admire traditional roles.

Cash was talking about the opener the other night. They will not let Yarbrough start games, and they will not make Chirinos a regular starter. They liked the versatility of the opener strategy. I’d certainly give Chirinos more innings and another start. Yarbrough? Not so much. But that’s just me.


Larry Beller April 2, 2019 at 8:36 am

Glad you didn’t hype up the opener thing like the Times did today. As Yonny Chirinos showed in Sunday’s game the opener strategy is over rated. Yarbrough could have started and gone another inning or 2 the way he was pitching last night. There is a time and a place when the opener strategy is effective and last year the Rays often used it wisely. But if Yarbrough is going to be that effective he should be starting just as Chirinos showed in his last game that he doesn’t need at opener. Starting pitchers rarely go longer than 5-6 innings anyway so what’s the big deal?


Gary Shelton April 2, 2019 at 1:41 pm

Larry, the beauty of the Rays’ plan is versatility. It’s easier to get one or two innings than three of four out of a pitcher. I don’t know if Yarbrough could have been as effective with a longer stint (I don’t know if he couldn’t), but with every batter, a starting pitcher usually loses something. Chirinos, frankly , has had the Rays’ best outing of the year.

The Rays are maximising their pitchers. So far, it’s working. Right?


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