September 22nd is an unexpected good day in Rays history. It marked the debut of David Price in 2008 and Matt Moore in 2011. Today it marked the debut of another young left hander, Enny Romero.
Romero, who spent all but one start this season in Double-A Montgomery, was called into action thanks to Jeremy Hellickson having to finish out Friday's 18 inning game. Joe Maddon hoped the 22-year-old Dominican with the mid-to-upper 90s fastball could give the Rays four, maybe five innings today. He did just that. Only an error by Kelly Johnson prevented him from completing five full innings and picking up the win.
His main bugaboo is the amount of walks he allows -- he sported a 4.68 BB/9 at AA. That flaw was evident today as he walked four in his 4.2 innings of work, though the strike zone seemed smaller than normal. He was able to limit the damage around those walks, allowing only one hit, a leadoff single to Manny Machado. Though he didn't strike anyone out his arsenal was impressive. The fastball, which he threw 58 of out of 70 pitches, had good movement and generated five whiffs and 21 strikes that weren't put into play. It was clear the plan for him was simple -- try and dominate with your fastball and worry about the secondary pitches later. He mixed in five changeups, six sliders and one curveball and was able to record four outs on his secondary stuff. I was especially impressed with how he attacked Chris Davis, testing him with sliders, getting the 51 homer man to ground out twice.
It was the best start you realistically could have hoped for. We likely won't see Romero in a big league uniform again any time soon, but it's always great to see the type of talent the Rays are cultivating in the minors on display in St. Petersburg.
As for the rest of the game, the Rays jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a leadoff home run by David DeJesus. Despite doubles in the second and third innings the Rays weren't able to score again until the sixth on a Matt Joyce sac fly. James Loney then drove in Ben Zobrist on a blooper to left later in the inning. The Rays bullpen was once again fantastic. Five relievers combined to finish it out with Fernando Rodney the only one allowing a hit or run as Matt Wieters doubled off a catwalk.
The Indians once again beat the Astros to remain a half game behind the Rays. Kansas City beat the Rangers on a walk-off grand slam, giving the Rays a two game lead over them.