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Astros snap Rays’ scoreless-innings streak

Jake Marisnick
Photo by Wayne Masut

Having thrown shutouts in back-to-back games, the Rays welcomed the Houston Astros on Thursday night for a four-game set.

Call them unconventional, call them unorthodox — the Tampa Bay Rays are changing the pitching landscape in Major League Baseball.

And they’re doing it with, what many would call, success.

Maybe not success in terms of wins and losses, after Thursday nights 1-0 loss to the AL West-leading Houston Astros dropped them to 18-19 over their last 37 games, but the staff is doing their part. Dating back to Sunday’s extra-inning win over the Yankees, Rays pitchers had gone 26.1 innings without allowing a run until Astros centerfielder Jake Marisnick changed that in the fifth inning on Thursday.

Entering in relief of Ryne Stanek (1.2 IP, 2 BB, 3 K), Ryan Yarbrough, who allowed just one run on seven hits while striking out four over 6.1 relief-innings, tossed an 82-mph changeup in the direction of the Astros’ No. 9 hitter that landed in the left-field seats, 408 feet later.

Tampa Bay has employed a unique starting rotation all year, mostly because of injuries to starters Jake Faria and Nathan Eovaldi, and top prospects like Brett Honeywell and Jose DeLeon. Plus, having been on the DL since June 5, Chris Archer (abdominal strain) will require a rehab stint (likely next week) before returning to action.

Having used 13 different pitchers to start games this year, it has been interesting to watch manager Kevin Cash manipulate his daily lineups.

“That’s kind of what we come in to knowing this season we had some young pitchers,” the Rays skipper said. “Mix-and-match, we’re gonna try to put guys in the right spot, and we play close games. After four years I better learn how to be involved in those close games because we do it a lot.”

It’s the 34th time this year (14-20) that the club has been finished within a run of their opponent.

The Rays’ franchise record for scoreless innings is 27, a feat that was accomplished between September 12-15, 2013. Marisnick’s fifth-inning homer put an end to the Rays’ 26-game scoreless streak, one shy of the record.

While the team has been utilizing “bullpen days” all season, on May 19 the team eliminated the term “starter” from their vocabulary and went with a more broad approach by using an “opener” to kick off each contest. Since then the team has posted a 3.55 ERA and held opponents to a .270 batting average, both tops in Major League Baseball.

Yarbrough has bought in to the philosophy and feels that it’s a good thing for his fellow pitchers.

“I feel like it’s kind of becoming a little bit of a competition,” the rookie left-hander said. “Where one guy goes out and does really well, the second guy wants to do better. That’s what drives guys and it’s a little fun competition.”

Certainly, drive, fun, and competition are all great buzz words to express a good team atmosphere, ultimately, however, the team is judged on the number of games they win. A 2.62 bullpen ERA, since May 19, is only good if you’re scoring three runs per game.

That’s something the club has done only 20 times over the 37-game span.

Diamond Notes:

Mallex Smith recorded his team-leading 15th stolen base. That brings him to within one of his RBI total for the season. In 2017, he finished the season with 13 RBI and 16 SB.

In a sim-game earlier in the day, Archer threw three innings. Cash said “it’s about that time to to send him out on a rehab assignment”. He’ll likely report to High-A Charlotte next week.

Did you know:

For the fourth time this season, Stanek started a game and did not allow a hit. He’s the only person, as far back as Baseball Reference data goes (1908), to make four starts in a single season without allowing a hit. The last person to make three starts in one year without allowing a hit was Sandy Koufax (LAD) in 1958. Stanek also joins Zack Greinke (2015), Orel Hershiser (1988), and Don Drysdale (1968) as the only pitchers to record six consecutive scoreless starts.

For the record, Stanek only pitched 8.2 innings over those six starts. By comparison, Drysdale threw a complete game (54 innings total) in every one of his six starts from May 14-June 4, 1968.

Up Next:

Wilmer Font (1-3; 6.46) and Gerrit Cole (9-1; 2.56) will toe the rubber on Friday night. It’ll be the second time in three starts that the Rays have faced Cole. He allowed four runs on seven hits on June 18 in Houston.


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