Friday, 2 a.m.
Most of the time, Erasmo Ramirez is smiling.
Sometimes, he makes other people smile, too.
Ramirez was terrific in his first start of the year Thursday, taming the Detroit Tigers in an 8-1 victory that completed a series sweep, their first since San Diego in mid-August of last season, allowing only two hits – and one earned run – in the five innings he pitched. Chase Whitley went the three innings afterward, and allowed only one hit, and Tommy Hunter pitched a scoreless ninth.
The Rays are now 8-2 at home on the season, averaging 5.4 runs per game.
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It was a nice patchwork job, made necessary by the injury to Jake Odorizzi. Ramirez gave up a leadoff home run to Ian Kinsler, but held the Tigers scoreless afterward.
The Rays had 11 hits, including three (and three RBI) from Steven Souza Jr. Kevin Kiermaier had two hits and two RBI. Souza now has 12 games of reaching base multiple times on the season, tying Anthony Rizzo of Chicago for the MLB lead.
“Great series,” said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. “It was nice to bounce back. We had some timely hitting and took advantage of some mistakes. Anytime you’re able to jump on those it helps a lot and we did that. Today, as far as Erasmo goes, both him and Whitley were outstanding.
“It’s funny with Erasmo, him starting and then getting back in the rotation, he decides he wants to be really efficient and we have no problem with that. His stuff looked really good. It had a lot of late action, which was nice to see. How fortunate for us to have that coverage for when a guy like Jake goes down to be able to piece it together with those two guys. Good day. The bullpen was pretty taxed so it was nice that we only had to use Whitley and Tommy after that.”
Cash took notice of Souza's big offensive day.
“We all know Souza has all the tools in the world,” Cash said. “I think we are seeing him put it together a little bit. I know his relationship with Chad has been very beneficial. They talk back-and-forth constantly before the game, throughout the game. I think the biggest adjustment Steven has done is put himself in a position from pitch 1 where he’s ready to hit and that’s helped him. He doesn’t have to hit the first pitch,
but he’s ready to hit it if it’s something to his liking.”
Souza said the Rays are simply playing better at home.
“We’ve played a lot cleaner games at home, so far,” he said. “We played (seven) games on the road and are now at .500 baseball. Playing at Yankee Stadium and Fenway, those are two tough teams and two tough environments. I just think we’ve played clean baseball. Hopefully at the end of the season, it all evens out.”
It was the first start by Ramirez in his last 70 appearances.
“It’s something just this year I’ve been working for," Ramirez said. :No matter what the situation, you have to realize what is your role in that moment. If they say you’re going to be a reliever, a long reliever, short reliever, no matter what you have to continue doing your routine. The routine that works for you, do that kind of routine. If you have to start like today, you don’t have anything to change. It’s like being in the bullpen. You have to attack the hitters and don’t give them the chance to realize what you’re thinking in that moment.”
The Rays start their next series, against the Houston Astros, at home tonight when Alex Cobb faces Mike Fiers.