ST. PETERSBURG — Drew Smyly knows the Tampa Bay Rays’ starting pitching is feeling it.
“We are,” the southpaw said with a smile. “We’ve all been pitching well since we got back from the (All-Star) Break, and I think we feed off each other.”
The Rays starters have been doing that the past 10 games, giving the team a streak of quality starts that has resulted in six wins, including three-straight following Saturday’s 6-3 over the New York Yankees in front of 25,833 at Tropicana Field.
“When we’re all doing night in and night out as a team,” Smyly added, “in those tight games, the pitching feeds off each other and it’s very gratifying when you know you pitched a good game and contributed to a win. That’s the feeling we all look for — (to) keep the team in the game and hand it over to the bullpen, hopefully, with a lead and good things are going to happen.”
It certainly was a good night for Smyly, who snapped a seven-game losing streak to pick up his third win of the season. The 27-year-old lefty pitched six sharp innings, allowing just two runs off a homer from Brett Gardner in the third inning. Smyly had six strikeouts, including getting Alex Rodriguez twice. The second of A-Rod was Smyly’s 500th of his career.
“Smyly was really good again and that was good to see,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “There’s a lot of nights were in tight ball games, but this stretch has been impressive by our starting guys.”
Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier agreed with Smyly, saying that as long as the Rays’ starting pitching finds its groove, the team can succeed, as it has over the past 12 games (7-5).
“(The starting pitching) is the main component as a team,” Kiermaier said. “So when they go, we go, and hopefully we can just keep it up. It’s awesome to see no one is giving up or anything like that, and the pitchers, what they’ve come up and done the past few weeks is awesome. Playing behind them is great and just watching them throw strikes and challenge hitters, and then make a couple plays for them.”
Kiermaier did just that when he made a leaping catch at the wall in the eighth to rob Yankees catcher Austin Romine of an easy double. Just the inning before, Kiermaier energized not only the crowd, but his teammates by manufacturing a run to extend the Rays’ lead in the seventh.
Kiermaier’s patented stretching a lazy single into a double worked once again, then he stole third and Steven Souza, Jr. drove him home. That opened the door for a Tim Beckham homer that padded the Rays’ lead.
“Exciting win — game, too,” Cash added. “KK really energized them … (As for the catch), we get spoiled because we get to see it all the time. Not many centerfielders in the game can get to that ball and jump that high.”
Rays shortstop Brad Miller knows exactly what has kept the Rays in every game since the All-Star Break.
“The starting pitching … that’s why we’ve been able to be in every game,” he said. “They keep us in it, we been swinging the bats well and playing good D. The combination of those good things begins with the starting pitching, just like tonight.”
As for Smyly, he just wants this stretch of quality starts to continue, especially with fellow lefty, Blake Snell, on the mound Sunday for the series finale.
“I think everyone in this clubhouse wants (the quality starts) to keep going,” Smyly said.
Rays SS Brad Miller hit his 16th homer Saturday, setting a new season-high for homers by a Rays shortstop. Asdrubal Cabrera (15) and Julio Lugo (03) both had 15. … Rays C Curt Casali hit his first homer since June. It was a two-run shot in the third. … Alex Rodriguez, playing at DH Saturday night, struck out four times. … Rays OF Desmond Jennings (hamstring) played nine innings in left field Saturday for the Class-A Charlotte StoneCrabs.
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