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Rays Bullpen Dominant in First Big Test

The Rays bullpen put the so-called baby bombers to bed with ease

MLB: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, during the sixth inning with the Rays leading 4-1, the New York Yankees were attempting to mount a comeback. Alex Cobb recorded the first two outs, but then allowed a sharp base hit through the left side that Mallex Smith limited to a single by getting to the ball quickly. That ended Cobb’s night and began the unproven bullpen’s first big test, without Brad Boxberger or Shawn Tolleson to call upon.

Xavier Cedeno was first out to face a lefty in Jacoby Ellsbury and suffered some tough luck as Ellsbury placed a soft grounder precisely between Evan Longoria and Tim Beckham for an infield single. Cedeno was done after one batter as Kevin Cash tuned to Jumbo Diaz to face Starlin Castro.

Diaz’s first pitch was a change-up, called a strike at the knees, 0-1. Diaz went right back with the same pitch twice more, to impressive results. The inning was over Starlin Castro was sent down swinging, with the big man tipping his cap to the crowd. It was an excellent performance from Diaz, who has impressed thus far.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the seventh, Kevin Cash called upon Erasmo Ramirez to make his season debut. Ramirez struggled with his command a bit, but he was still able to be successful. After a leadoff walk, Ramirez coaxed an easy double play play to erase the runner. Then Erasmo engaged in a battle with Ronald Torreyes that lasted for nine pitches.

Ramirez kept pounding the bottom of the zone with the full might of his arsenal, mixing in his change-up with his fastball with his slider until finally he got Torres to make weak contact on a slider well below the zone and popped him out to center field.

Erasmo came back out for the eighth inning and the Yankees threatened again. Brett Gardner led off and sliced a fastball on the outside corner to left field for a single. The dangerous Gary Sanchez was now up and Ramirez at first looked like he wanted no part of him as he well threw several pitches well off the plate and below the zone and even bounced a slider in that allowed Gardner to move up to second.

After three straight balls however, Ramirez settled down and worked the inner half of the plate and he got Sanchez to roll over on a fastball inside for a ground out. Ramirez would then make some Greg Bird flambe, pitching high and low with both his primary and secondary offerings eventually getting a punch out.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With Matt Holiday, Ramirez kept mixing in his two-seam with his slider and may have gotten lucky as he left two pitches over the heart of the plate. Nonetheless, the final pitch of the at-bat was a two seam that ran low and in on Holiday, that he hit softly on the ground for the final out of the inning.

Onto the ninth, and with it, Alex Colome took the mound.

Colome got beat up during the inning with the first batter lining a ball straight back at him. The ball deflected off of Colome and caromed towards short for a single. That runner would quickly be taken care of though after the Rays turned another double play. The next batter would again hit comebacker that deflected off of Colome for a base hit. You can watch both in the video here.

Thankfully Colome wasn’t fazed by being physically knocked around and he got Aaron Judge to flyout to center for the final out of the game and his second save of the season.

The Rays bullpen in total — 3.1 IP - 4 H - 1 BB - 0 R - 2 K — Not bad for a ‘pen that’s lacking its high leverage depth.