Rays 8, Rangers 1: Odorizzi, Rodriguez Lead Attack Against Texas

Brian Blanco

The strong pitching of Jake Odorizzi and the strong bat of Sean Rodriguez powered the Rays to victory Friday night.

Spring training was filled with uncertainty for Jake Odorizzi. The 24-year-old right hander battled for the fifth starter position until the last few days of camp, ultimately winning the job. His winning the position seemingly hinged on his ability to master a new pitch, a sort of changeup/splitter taught to him by Alex Cobb and nicknamed "The Thing." Spring training isn't a great way to judge a player's progress with anything, but the team obviously felt confident in his abilities. Tonight we were shown why.

He unleashed the pitch quite often, throwing it 22 times for 14 strikes, including six whiffs and recorded six outs as a direct result. He threw four in a row to Leonys Martin in his first at bat, striking him out without much resistance. Shin-Soo Choo looked helpless in the fifth inning, striking out while flailing at two in a row. The only Rangers batter who didn't seem to give into the pitch was Adrian Beltre, who walked twice without chasing.

Odorizzi got into trouble in the fourth inning when the heart of the Rangers' order, Prince Fielder, Beltre and Alex Rios got their second look at the northpaw. All three hit the ball hard, with Beltre lining out on a screamer to centerfield. Mitch Moreland then singled on a line drive to right field which should have easily scored Fielder, had he not hesitated rounding third base, allowing himself to be caught in a rundown. His blunder gave the Rangers second and third with two out, instead of second and third with one out and a run scored. Odorizzi got Donnie Murphy swinging, on The Thing, to end the inning.

He still had trouble putting hitters away when he was ahead in the count, but all in all it was quite an impressive way to start his season.

The big story at the plate was new father Sean Rodriguez. Replacing James Loney in Joe Maddon's all right-handed lineup, he was hit by a pitch to force in a run and belted a double and three-run homer, and added a diving grab at first base.

A year after right-handed bats hit .333/.394/.559 against the soft tossing lefty the lineup decision was no surprise. The top four hitters in the Rays lineup combined to reach base 11 times, setting the table for Rodriguez and Ryan Hanigan, who also hit a three-run homer, to clean.

Other notes

  • Jake McGee's curveball is still a work in progress, but he did get a called strike out of it.
  • Joe Maddon's first replay challenge was a success, as Wil Myers clearly made a sliding catch in the seventh inning.
  • Adrian Beltre made two errors tonight. Mark this day down.
  • Desmond Jennings now has six hits on the season, five of them being doubles.
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