Duffy drives in winning run in bottom of ninth

by Gary Shelton on June 14, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Matt Duffy drives in the winning run against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

Matt Duffy drives in the winning run against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

Thursday, 4 a.m.

He has 65 hits this year, not that anyone noticed.

He has 335 over his career, not that anyone talks about any of them.

Matt Duffy is the quiet man, the grinder, the full-day-at-work ballplayer. He is a excellent ballplayer until it is time to talk about excellent ballplayers. He goes about his work, and he's hitting .313, and he has helped the team get past the trade of Evan Longoria.

Until a day like Wednesday come along.

And suddenly, Duffy is a big deal all over again.

Players celebrate in the win against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

Players celebrate in the win against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

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Mallex Smith hits against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

Mallex Smith hits against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

Duffy singled to left field with two out  in the bottom of the ninth to drive in the only run of the game Wednesday. It was the team's third straight win, and their fourth of their last five.

Duffy's hit came after a double by Mallex Smith, who took third on a groundout.

Diego Castillo closes against the Blue Jays./James Luedde

Diego Castillo closes against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

It was Duffy's third walk-off hit of his career.

“That’s two days in a row now that the bullpen came in and really picked us up in a big way," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "We won the last two games because of their performance, whether they are opening or starting. They are really providing a lot for us at this point. To be able to shut a team down for nine innings is very challenging to do in this league and they did it. They pieced it together really well.

Jake Bauers reacts after a base hit against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

Jake Bauers reacts after a base hit against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

"Then (Matt) Duffy comes up and gets the big hit. There wasn’t a ton of offense for either team obviously by the 0-0 score, but it was nice to get that and not have to go to extra innings because (Vidal) Nuno was coming into the game and that’s about as much as we had left.”

Jake Bauers and Mallex Smith both had two hits for the Rays. Duffy had the only other hit.

“(J.A.) Happ did a good job of keeping us off balance," Duffy said. "He was getting it a little bit on the corners, but credit to him he took advantage of it.

Wilmer Font opens pitching against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

Wilmer Font opens pitching against the Blue Jays./JAMES LUEDDE

It was a long one for us today. Our whole pitching staff did well. Ours picked us up big time. After seeing that many zeros it’s definitely awesome to come on top of that game with a win.”

The Rays now play a crucial part of their schedule against  the Yankees, nationals and Astros.

"The AL East is a tough division, everybody knows that," Duffy said. "Going to New York is a big stage, but I think they will be alright. They are pretty even keel guys. They don’t seem like the type of guys to go up and down and worry about the stage. To me, it looks like they are playing baseball and having fun, whether that’s because they are calm or they don’t know what stage they are on yet. They handle themselves really well and are composed. I have no worries about them being on a big stage.”

Bauers was hitless in his first eight at-bats, but he's now hitting .308 on the season.

Rookie Diego Castillo, the third Rays' pitcher on the day, got the win by pitching the last two innings.

In today's series opener at New York, Blake Snell pitches against Domingo German. Game time is at 7:05 p.m.

Willy Adames makes a stop and starts double play./JAMES LUEDDE

Willy Adames makes a stop and starts double play./JAMES LUEDDE

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller June 14, 2018 at 10:01 pm

That’s a great point. The Rays are stunting the development of their future starters.

In regard to my initial point, closers and other top relievers rarely pitch more than 1 inning in any given outing and almost never more than 2 innings. The Rays will have a guy pitch 3+ innings in 1 outing and then bring him back for short relief the next time. Everyone is interchangeable. Not a good system for the players involved or in the long term for the team.

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Gary Shelton June 15, 2018 at 12:23 am

It’s rare when the Rays pitch anyone into a third inning, but your point is the same. There have been a couple of times a guy hs closed one night and opened the next day. I can’t believe that won’t catch up with the arms on this team.

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Larry Beller June 14, 2018 at 5:46 am

I still think these frequent bullpen days are not good for the team on so many levels. A starting pitcher can go 5 innings and get 4 days off but a reliever working in the Rays bullpen who pitches 3+ innings is expected to come back and pitch again 2 days later. That has got to take it’s toll on their arms. Don’t expect these bullpen guys to have long careers. The Rays know that too because they have a major makeover of their bullpen every year.

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Gary Shelton June 14, 2018 at 6:27 pm

Closers and high-leverage pitchers have always thrown a lot, but you have a point about the long-term health of guys in the new roles.

What I worry about is this: How much does a young pitcher have to prove until he’s a starter. Would Blake Snell have ever gotten out of the bullpen? At some point, a franchise has to develop its starters.

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