Anymore, this is not simply relief.
For the Tampa Bay Rays, this is reinvention.
The Rays, as has so often been the case, have become primarily a bullpen team so far this year. Once again Friday night, they turned to their bullpen one more time, pulling out a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners. This time, the effort was needed after starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi left the game in the fifth inning with a strained oblique, the latest injury to the Rays’ depleted starting rotation.
So far, however, the bullpen has made up whatever problems the rotation has had. On this night, three relief pitchers shut out the Mariners for the final 4.2 innings. Andrew Bellati pitched three innings of shutout ball for the Rays, but after the game, he was immediately optioned out so the Rays could have a fresh reliever tomorrow. Such is the amount the Rays have depended upon the pen so far; their biggest fear should be overusing it.
But the impressive performance was in the ninth inning with Kevin Jepson. Jepson, throwing for the third straight day, gave up a leadoff triple to Austin Jackson in the bottom of the ninth with a 1-0 lead. Staring at a tie game, Jepson had a strikeout, a short fly ball to right and a fly to left to preserve the shutout.
The Rays got the only run they would need when Logan Forsythe hit his seventh home run of the year in the ninth off former Ray Fernando Rodney.
That was enough against a Mariners team that has mysteriously struggled to score lately. Seattle has now lost 13 games in a row despite a lineup that was supposed to be improved.
The Rays are 6-2 on their current road trip, but they continue to trail the New York Yankees by a half game in the AL East.
Today, Alex Colome pitches against Seattle’s Felix Hernandez.