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Rays beat Padres behind a pitching gem by Drew Smyly

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The Tampa Bay Rays are finally getting the brand of pitching they thought they would get all along.

For instance, consider Drew Smyly.

Smyly threw seven innings of one-hit baseball at the San Diego Padres Monday night, his fifth straight quality start. In those five games, Smyly is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

“This game is full of streaks, hitting and pitching,” Smyly said. “You’ve just got to try to ride out the good streaks and try to limit the bad ones. But I feel good right now, making quality pitches, and I’ll try to ride it out to the end of the season.”

Smyly gave up a home run in the first to Alexei Ramirez, then returned 20 of the next 22 batters he faced, the only runners coming via walks.

The key?

“Being efficient, I guess,” Smyly said. “They were swinging pretty early; they were really aggressive. I got quite a bit of first-pitch outs, which helped my pitch count obviously. Just tried to stay out of the heart of the plate … try to nibble on the corners, and get some weak contact which I did.”

Manager Kevin Cash talked about how crisp Smyly was.

“Just really efficient,” he said. “(He) kept his pitch count down. A lot of early outs. Made them put the ball in play, so just another strong outing for him. It’s nice to see the turnaround that he’s had, among some other guys in our rotation.

“I think he’s trusting all of his stuff more. When you go into a rut like he was in, it’s very easy to doubt what pitch you want to throw, but right now it seems like he’s very trusting of everything he’s throwing.”

The Rays got three hits from center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, including a three-run homer in a five-run eighth inning that wrapped up the game.

“Since KK’s moved up in the lineup, I think he’s done a really nice job,” Cash said. “I know he’s not setting the world on fire getting hits, but he’s doing a lot of things to help us win games. Tonight, the three-run homer was great, but he got the two singles, then he got the [walk], really solid at-bats. He gets on base and does exactly what we need, and that’s steal bases, create some havoc, put pressure on the pitcher and on the defense.”

Kiermaier said he wants to be more of a threat.

“I just want to try to take offensive steps forward from here through the end of the season. I know I’ve been a little inconsistent thus far throughout the season,” Kiermaier said. “This is a never-ending process of working. … It’s always a work in progress. … I’m just trying to have as many quality at-bats as possible and get on for our big guys to drive me in. If it’s a single here or there, steal a couple bases and get in scoring position for Longo, LoMo and Brad — that’s my game, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The Rays continue to be in last place in the AL East, but they’re 14-15 since the all-star break and have outscored opponents by 38 runs.

The Rays play the Padres again tonight, with Blake Snell throwing against former Tampa Bay pitcher Edwin Jackson.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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