While Evan Longoria reaches a milestone

We had to wait for it. The Rays didn’t manage to clinch until the first game of the last series of the season. But now that it’s all locked up, doesn’t it feel good?

Third place in the American League East, baby.

That sounds like a joke, but no, actually, it does feel kind of good. I don’t know that we need to run up a banner or anything, but I’m pretty happy to see my team finish in front of Baltimore and Toronto. Definitely happier than I’d be watching them finish behind Baltimore and Toronto. Pride is funny thing.

Jake Odorizzi started the game off well, mixing his cutter, and his curve early, throwing a few split-changeups to lefties, and setting up his high fastball to be a putaway pitch. That’s how he succeeds. Through four innings he’d allowed only three men to reach base and had struck out four batters.

But on his final warmup pitch before the fifth inning, Odorizzi felt something he didn’t like, and quickly removed himself from the game. Alex Corddry later told us that it was right knee soreness. That’s better news than an arm problem, probably, and despite the short last start, Odorizzi can feel good about how he finished the season.

The Rays offense got on the board in the third inning when, with one out, Daniel Robertson accepted a four pitch walk, Peter Bourjos laced a grounder through the right side, and Steven Souza took a five pitch walk from a suddenly wild Wade Miley. Evan Longoria hit a grounder up the middle, which Tim Beckham fielded and gave a good scoop to Schoop, but Jonathan Schoop’s turn wasn’t particularly good, and a spry-looking Longoria beat out a low throw.

From that point the Rays offense never looked back, scoring a total of seven unanswered runs, with the highlights being:

  • An infield popup hit off the Tropicana Field ceiling by Curt Casali
  • A bases loaded walk by Daniel Robertson
  • Evan Longoria’s 20th home run
  • Logan Morrison’s 38th home run

That home run by Longo continues a remarkable run of success. In his ten seasons in Tampa Bay, he’s only failed to reach 20 homers one time, in an injury-shortened (but very productinve) 2012.

Bullpen Future

The best part of watching the dying embers of a season is getting a chance to see future major league pieces get their feet wet, and most commonly that means youngsters in the bullpen.

Because of Odorizzi’s early departure, we got greater than one inning of both Ryne Stanek and Andrew Kittredge.

Stanek really focused on his secondary pitches. He faced mostly righties, and he worked his sliders down and away from them and his changeups down and inside, before coming at them with his high-90s fastball. If he can pitch like that consistently he will be really good.

The other side of Stanek was on display tonight too—pitches yanked into the dirt.

Andrew Kittredge has a much lower ceiling than Stanek, but it’s definitely possible to imagine him playing a role in a successful bullpen. He first worked his big slider in tonight before coming with his mid-90s fastball. If he can locate, that combo will beat righties.

Between the two of them, they struck out five Orioles in three innings.

Some other notes:

  • Mitch Lukevics joined the broadcast in the bottom of the third inning. Asked who from the system we might see in the big leagues next year, his answer was Brent Honeywell, Ryan Yarborough, Willy Adames, and Jake Bauers. The interesting name in there for those not giving the minors a close eye is Yarborough. Put him on your radar.
  • In the fourth inning, Brian Anderson told a little story about back in the National League, “when he would get on base in his own game,” there was no pressure. he could do whatever he wanted, steal a base, etc. But when he would pinch run, it was a totally different story. He felt the pressure not to mess it up for his guys, then.
  • Wait wait wait, hold the phone. First, “When he would get on base?” Career .162 OBP. Stolen bases? Well, Brian Anderson did have two. One in both of 1998 and 1999, with no caught stealings. Good job. But exactly how many times did Brian Anderson pinch run? Let’s save the BA career deep dive for the offseason.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com