Rays’ starting pitching finally showing up

by Gary Shelton on August 18, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Archie is coming off a four-hit shutout for Rays.

Archie is coming off a four-hit shutout for Rays.

Thursday, 6 a.m.

Suddenly, they are hitting like crazy.

Squint, or you might mistake them for Murderer's Row. They have taken on the better aspects of the Big Red Machine. They might be the Gashouse Gang.

Okay, okay. At least, they are better than what we are used to seeing from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Suddenly, they are playing better defense, and they are running the bases, and the bullpen is starting to make better sense. The different parts of a baseball team have come together to make the Rays at least mediocre.

But the thing that gives you hope that next year might be better than this one is this.

Finally, the pitching looks major league.

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Blake Snell has had a decent rookie season.

Blake Snell has had a decent rookie season.

All along, this was the plan. It was the reason that Matt Silverman didn't blush when he suggested this team could play meaningful games in September. It was the reason that players talked as if the AL East was winnable.

Oh, granted, the Rays aren't world-beaters these days either. But

Odorizi has turned his season around since the break.

Odorizzi has turned his season around since the break.

after flirting for much of the summer with last place, this is definitely an improvement. It's like having a small headache instead of a large one.

Consider:

-- Chris Archer finally looked like a stopper Wednesday, throwing 7 1/3 innings of four-hit, shutout baseball. Archer has gone at least six innings in 15 of his last 16 games. His nine strikeouts helped him stay on top of the AL in that category.

-- Jake Odorizzi is 4-0 with a 1.66 ERA since the all-star break, the third-best ERA in the majors.

-- Drew Smyly has pitched six straight games and allowed two earned runs or less. He's coming off a one-hitter against San Diego. Over his last five starts, he's 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

-- Blake Snell has pitched seven straight games in which he's allowed two runs or less. He had some control problems Tuesday, but he gave up only one earned run. His ERA is down to 3.06.

-- Matt Andriese has seven straight starts of three runs or fewer.

In other words, every time out, the Rays have a shot at winning. On days when the power is off. On days when the defense is leaky. On days when the baserunners go 90 feet at a time.

“You look at what we’ve done and we’ve been not just quality but Rays quality. A quality start is not what we consider quality,” Archer said. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard here. It’s just what it is. So we did catch a lot of heat the first half of the season when we were pitching mediocre. It’s nice that we’ve gotten in a hot groove.”

Earlier in the season, the Rays would send these guys out, and you'd be lucky not to get three losses and two no-decisions out of them. Now, you feel the Rays are at least in a break-even situation.

“We’d talked about it for a while during the first half and it never came. Basically since the second half started, we all kind of changed our tune, I guess,” Odorizzi said. “Everything is going well for all the starters, just consistent outings back-to-back-to-back. It really takes stress off the bullpen.”

Does any of this mean the team will get out of the AL East cellar. Probably not. The hole was too deep.

The good news? So far, they haven't been eliminated from the 2017 race.

Smelly is coming off a one-hitter.TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Smyly is coming off a one-hitter.TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

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