The Tampa Bay Rays got back on track with their usual assortment of power arms.
They used six pitchers, only one of whom went more than an inning, in a 5-2 home victory over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. Tampa Bay, which is still in firm control of the American League East, had lost five of its previous seven games.
The Rays will continue their four-game home series against the Tigers on Friday.
Detroit’s runs came on solo homers by Niko Goodrum and Jeimer Candelario.
“This was standard operation Tampa Bay Rays,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Six pitchers, they’re all really good arms, didn’t get a lot of great looks against really any of them. Put a couple of good swings (on them), they just did a real good job and we didn’t have a ton of positive at-bats. The six arms coming at you in nine innings is very typical Rays. It’s one of the reasons they’re one of the best teams in the league.”
Mike Zunino hit his 31st homer as Tampa Bay began a 10-game homestand with a strong chance to clinch the division during that span.
“The sky’s the limit for this club,” Zunino said in a postgame TV interview. “There’s a lot of young talent and, for us, just trying to right the ship. Obviously, it wasn’t the road trip we wanted, but to have this long homestand at the end of September is nice.”
Luis Patino was originally scheduled to pitch on Saturday, but the Rays decided to move up his start by one day.
The 21-year-old right-hander pitched Sunday against the Tigers, giving up two runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. Candelario homered off him.
Patino (4-3, 4.62 ERA) has fared better at home than on the road, going 3-2 with a 2.91 ERA in Tampa.
Right-hander Casey Mize (7-8, 3.66) will start for Detroit, but the bullpen will pitch the bulk of the game. Mize has been placed under a three-inning limit for the remainder of the season.
Mize lasted just two innings against the Rays in his last start on Saturday as he threw 48 pitches and gave up three second-inning runs. Joey Wendle and Kevin Kiermaier hit triples off him during that inning and the Rays posted a 7-2 victory.
“It never felt like we were back in the game after the three-spot in the second inning,” Hinch said. “They took control and could do whatever they needed.”
In his previous outing, Sept. 5, Mize pitched three spotless innings against Cincinnati.
The one negative for Tampa Bay on Thursday was the early removal of slugger Nelson Cruz, who was hit by a pitch in the first inning and came out for a pinch-hitter midway through the game. He was diagnosed with a right forearm contusion and X-rays were negative.
He will likely sit out at least one game.
“I kind of had it in the back of my mind to give him a day (off) tomorrow (prior to the injury) with Mize and then (Tarik) Skubal the next day,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ll get some treatment on it and see how he feels.”
–Field Level Media