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Bucs have prime-time games against Patriots, Falcons in 2017

They are coming up on their 10th year without a playoff game.

Still, the Tampa Bay Bucs have to feel as if they’ll be playing with the big boys in 2017.

The Bucs play a prime-time Thursday night game this year against the world-champion New England Patriots (Oct. 5), then later play a Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons (Dec. 18). The Bucs also play two games against the Carolina Panthers, the Super Bowl runners-up of two seasons ago.

Tampa Bay closes its season with three divisional games, the Falcons, the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints.

The Bucs will play seven games against quarterbacks who were in the top 10 of the NFL in passing last year. They play two games against Drew Brees (first), two against Matt Ryan (second), one against Aaron Rodgers (fourth), one against Matt Stafford (sixth) and one against Carson Palmer (ninth). That doesn’t even count Tom Brady, who finished 20th after being suspended for four games. Still, most people acknowledge Brady as the best. Cam Newton, the league MVP in 2015, finished 21st with a bad shoulder last year.

2017 Bucs:

Sept. 10       at Miami

Sept. 17        Chicago

Sept. 24        at Minnesota

Sept. 31         New York Giants

Oct. 5             New England

Oct. 15           at Arizona

Oct, 22          at Buffalo

Oct. 29         Carolina

Nov. 5           at New Orleans

Nov. 12         New York Jets

Nov. 26         at Atlanta

Dec. 3            at Green Bay

Dec. 10          Detroit

Dec. 18         Atlanta

Dec. 24         at Carolina

Dec. 31          New Orleans Saints

Erasmo Ramirez gives the Tampa Bay Rays a reason to keep smiling

Most of the time, Erasmo Ramirez is smiling.

Sometimes, he makes other people smile, too.

Ramirez was terrific in his first start of the year Thursday, taming the Detroit Tigers in an 8-1 victory that completed a series sweep, their first since San Diego in mid-August of last season. Ramirez allowed only two hits – and one earned run – in the five innings he pitched. Chase Whitley went the three innings afterward and allowed only one hit, and Tommy Hunter finished up the ninth.

The Rays are now 8-2 at home on the season, averaging 5.4 runs per game.

It was a nice patchwork job, made necessary by the injury to Jake Odorizzi. Ramirez gave up a leadoff home run to Ian Kinsler but held the Tigers scoreless afterward.

The Rays had 11 hits, including three (and three RBI) from Steven Souza Jr. Kevin Kiermaier had two hits and two RBI. Souza now has 12 games of reaching base multiple times on the season, tying Anthony Rizzo of Chicago for the MLB lead.

“Great series,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash. “It was nice to bounce back. We had some timely hitting and took advantage of some mistakes. Anytime you’re able to jump on those it helps a lot, and we did that. Today, as far as Erasmo goes, both him and Whitley were outstanding.

“It’s funny with Erasmo starting and then getting back in the rotation, he decides he wants to be really efficient, and we have no problem with that. His stuff looked really good. It had a lot of late action, which was nice to see. How fortunate for us to have that coverage for when a guy like Jake goes down to be able to piece it together with those two guys. Good day. The bullpen was pretty taxed, so it was nice that we only had to use Whitley and Tommy after that.”

Cash took notice of Souza’s big offensive day.

“We all know Souza has all the tools in the world,” Cash said. “I think we are seeing him put it together a little bit. I know his relationship with Chad has been very beneficial. They talk back-and-forth constantly before the game, throughout the game. I think the biggest adjustment Steven has done is put himself in a position from pitch 1 where he’s ready to hit, and that’s helped him. He doesn’t have to hit the first pitch, but he’s ready to hit it if it’s something to his liking.”

Souza said the Rays are simply playing better at home.

“We’ve played a lot cleaner games at home, so far,” he said. “We played (seven) games on the road and are now at .500 baseball. Playing at Yankee Stadium and Fenway, those are two tough teams and two tough environments. I just think we’ve played clean baseball. Hopefully, at the end of the season, it all evens out.”

The Rays start their next series, against the Houston Astros, at home tonight when Alex Cobb faces Mike Fiers.

 

Rays capture strange victory over Tigers on misplayed grounder

Sometimes, baseball makes no sense. None at all. Sometimes, it is a bizarre, unexplainable game filled with strange bounces.

Take the Tampa Bay Rays’ 8-7 victory over the Detroit Tigers Wednesday. It was a confusing mess of a game in which everything you thought you knew was no longer true.

For instance, the Tigers launched a comeback when gold glover Kevin Kiermaier missed a fly ball, leading to a three-run triple.

For instance, the Rays came back from that when Juan Iglecias tripped over second base on a tailor-made double-play ball and threw wildly to first, allowing two runs to score.

For instance, the Rays knocked in the winning run with a routine groundball that would have ended the game with Detroit winning. It was misplayed, and Tampa Bay won.

Yeah. It was like that.

The Rays are now 7-2 at home on the year (1-6 on the road) and have won each of their three series this year. The Rays had 14 hits, including three each by Kiermaier and Evan LongoriaCorey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Steven Souza Jr. and Shane Peterson all had two.

The most surprising effort of the night, however, was by reliever Travis Pruitt. Pruitt had made six appearances this year, and he had given up a run in all of them. In all, he had a 15.88 ERA. But Wednesday night, he threw three and one-third inning and allowed only one hit and no runs to get his first major league win.

Pruitt said one of the keys was first-pitch strikes. “If you can do that, you’re in the driver’s seat,” he said. “If not, you’re in the passenger’s seat.”

Said manager Kevin Cash: “I really don’t know. I want to say that he’s been snake-bit by some unfortunate luck. He’s given up some hard-hit balls. We know this guy is going to be around the plate and he generally pitches ahead in the count. If it was anything, it was probably he was able to turn it into three innings where he could control the count a little better.”

The sight of Kiermaier failing to make a catch was shocking. He suggested the ball may have knuckled on him.

“Sloppy,” Kiermaier said. “We’ll take it anyway we can. I missed that ball. That’s a play I expect to make. Something went wrong with it, but I need to catch that. I hold myself accountable.”

The Rays play the Tigers again at 1:10 p.m. Erasmo Ramirez pitches against Daniel Norris.

Rowdies get a point with 1-1 draw against Cincinnati on the road

It’s a hard sport in which to score. Still, one goal will win only so often in the United Soccer League.

For the fourth time in five games, the Rowdies scored only one goal Wednesday night, and the team had to settle for a 1-1 draw with the home standing FC Cincinnati FC.

This time, Marcel Schaffer scored in the seventh minute for the Rowdies. Harrison Delbridge evened the game on a header in the 36th minute.

“We started off the game great with Marcel’s goal,” said Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell. “Despite not being able to get the three points, I think the draw is a positive result, especially against a tough team like Cincinnati. Now we have to turn the page and work on getting a win on Saturday at home.”

FCC almost scored in the 20th minute, but goalkeeper Matt Pickens made a nice save.

“I had a perfect angle with my left foot, so I decided to take a chance,” said Schafer. “Luckily it went as planned and I scored my first goal with the Rowdies. Despite the goal, I am disappointed we couldn’t get the three points, but I still think it’s a good result on the road.”

The Rowdies kept Djiby Falls, the USL’s leading scorer, without a point as Neill Collins and Damion Lowe did a nice job on him. Collins was named player of the match by USL.com.

With three games in a week, Rowdies’ coach Campbell didn’t play either Joe Cole (until the 80th minute) or Georgi Hristov (until the 65th).

“I felt that after our goal, we stopped playing the way we know how to play and that cost us,” Campbell said. “We defended well when they put the pressure on us, which is a positive takeaway.”

Tampa Bay had a chance after Cincinnati went down a man with 15 minutes to play, but they were unable to finish.

The Rowdies now return home to face Charleston Battery on Saturday, April 22.

Rays return to the Trop, win solid outing against the Detroit Tigers

Dome, sweet Dome.

The Tampa Bay Rays enjoyed their return to Tropicana Field Tuesday night, beating the Detroit Tigers 5-1 in a solid victory. The Rays had spent the previous seven games on the road, losing six of them, before the victory Tuesday.

How good was it? It was so good that shortstop Tim Beckham, one of the team’s punching bags by the fans, had a two-run homer and a single and played solid shortstop for the Rays. Catcher Derek Norris also had two hits and drove in a run.

Starting pitcher Matt Andriese gave up a first-inning home run to Miguel Cabrera, but he gave up only three more hits. Three members of the bullpen were perfect in relief.

The Rays did strike out 10 times, which marked the seventh time in the last eight games they’ve whiffed in double-digits. But they had nine hits against Michel Fulmer, the reigning AL rookie of the year.

“We needed a win today,” Rays’ manager Kevin Cash said. “We went up againstt a very good pitcher in Fulmer and we had some good at-bats. Matt Andriese set the tone. He gave up the early home run, but it didn’t faze him and didn’t rattle him.”

Tampa Bay and Detroit play again tonight at the Trop. Chris Archer pitches against Jordan Zimmerman.

Rays lose their sixth of the last seven games after big error

The Tampa Bay Rays can’t wait to get home.

The Rays limped through the final game of their homestand, losing six of the seven games to ruin a good start. The Rays lost to the Boston Red Sox 4-2 Saturday with a familiar pattern: A good start, loose defense, a lost chance at a comeback and too many strikeouts.

Tampa Bay started out the season 5-2, but in six of the seven games since, the Rays have had at least 11 strikeouts.

The Rays made a key error in the second inning when second baseman Brad Miller dropped a throw from shortstop Tim Beckham that would have ended the inning. The Red Sox followed with two single and two walks and scored three times.

“I didn’t catch the ball,” Miller said. “It cost us three runs and ended up being the difference in the game.”

The Rays loaded the bases in the seventh inning with one out, but a strikeout by Miller and a flyout by Logan Morrison ended the threat. Five of the last six Rays’ batters struck out.

“Frustrating loss,” said Kevin Cash. “For us to have our best chance to win, we have to play clean baseball. You can go back to a couple of plays on this road trip that it just didn’t go our way. It’s very tough for us to overcome.”

Boston’s Andrew Benintendi had three hits for the Red Sox. Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. all had two hits for Tampa Bay.

The Rays are now in fourth place in AL East. They play the Tigers tonight with Matt Andriese pitching agianst Michael Fulmer.

Rays lose pitcher Jake Odorizzi to hamstring injury in loss to Red Sox

The Tampa Bay Rays managed to scrape together a pretty good pitching game Saturday.

The hitting? Not so much.

The Rays dropped a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, falling back to even on the season. The Rays were forced to piece together the efforts of five pitchers after starter Jake Odorizzi left in the second inning with a tight hamstring.

Boston’s Chris Sale, meanwhile, was dominant. He struck out 12 in seven innings and allowed only three hits in getting the win.

The Red Sox scored the winning run in the seventh when they loaded the bases with two singles and a walk off of Tommy Hunter. Xavier Cedeno came in and got a ground ball, but it was slow off the bat and rookie Daniel Robertson had to go to first.

“I loved the efficiency,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash. “When you lose your pitcher in the second inning, our bullpen had to be efficient and lengthen themselves out. I was impressed with their performances.”

Odorizzi will go on the 10-day disabled list. His roster spot will be taken by Chase Whitley.

Mitch Moreland hit a home in the second for Boston. Evan Longoria’s single tied it in the third.

The Rays play against the Red Sox today at 1:05 p.m. Alex Cobb pitches against Drew Pomeranz.

Tampa Bay Rays take out their frustrations on Boston’s Red Sox

After spending the week getting beaten up in New York, any place else would have felt fine for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Even Boston.

The Rays, fresh off being swept by the Yankees, took their frustrations out on the Boston Red Sox Friday night in a 10-5 victory. Four different Rays hit home runs, led by Logan Morrison’s first career grand slam. Also homering were Shane Peterson, just up from the minors, Brad Miller, who hit his first homer of the season, and Steven Souza Jr. Miller had three hits.

Chris Archer, who lost 19 times a year ago, ran his record to 2-0, going 5 2/3 and giving up one earned run.

The Rays jumped on reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, getting eight hits and eight earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. Porcello had gone at least five innings in 43 straight games.

The first big moment of the night was the two-run homer from Peterson, who was called up to replace the injured Mallex Smith.

“It was a pretty cool moment,” said manager Kevin Cash. “I’m really smart for putting him in the lineup. (laughs). No, I’m just happy for him.”

Archer had lost 11 in a row against the Red Sox.

The Rays play Boston again today as Jake Odorizzi faces Chris Sale.

Rays swept by New York Yankees; fall back to .500 for season

Suddenly, they look like the Rays you remember from last season.

The Tampa Bay Rays lost their third straight game Thursday night, getting swept by the New York Yankees and falling back to .500 on the season and dropping to fourth in the AL East.

This time, the Rays lost 3-2, striking out 15 times against the Yankees. Starting pitcher Luis Severino struck out 11.

Aaron Hicks hit two home runs and drove in all three runs for the Yankees. He had a two-run homer in the seventh off Xavier Cedeno for the winning runs.

Tampa Bay threatened to tie the game in the eighth, putting runners on first and third with no one out. But Dellin Betances got both Kevin Kiermaier and Evan Longoria to strike out looking and Brad Miller grounded out to end the threat.

“He’s one of a handful of pitchers you can totally understand his success,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash.

The Rays had trouble making contact the entire night. Kevin Kiermaier, Steven Souza Jr., Brad Miller and Daniel Robertson all struck out three times.

Tampa Bay starting pitcher Matt Andriese threw well, allowing only one earned run on five hits through six innings.

The Rays now travel to Boston for tonight’s game, which features Chris Archer against Rick Porcello.

Rays fall to Yankees; lose back-to-back games for the first time this season

The Tampa Bay Rays are suffering their first losing streak of the season.

The Rays fell to 5-4 and to third place in the AL East, losing an 8-4 decision to the New York Yankees. In back-to-back games, the Rays have given up 16 runs.

The Rays were particularly sloppy Wednesday, blowing a 3-0 lead, committing two errors and having two runners thrown out trying to stretch singles into doubles. Rays’ starter Blake Snell went only 4 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on two hits. Jumbo Diaz gave up three runs out of the bullpen and took the loss.

“Certainly, we have to play cleaner games,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash.

Rickie Weeks hit a two-run homer to get the Rays off to a good start, but New York came back with two runs in the fifth, four in the sixth and two in the seventh.

The Rays conclude their series against New York tonight at Yankee Stadium.

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