ST. PETERSBURG -- It was the first time in a long time for two back-end pieces of the Rays' bullpen -- the first time Erasmo Ramírez didn't allow a baserunner in an appearance since May 29, and the first time since June 14 that Alex Colomé attempted and completed a
ST. PETERSBURG -- It was the first time in a long time for two back-end pieces of the Rays' bullpen -- the first time Erasmo Ramírez didn't allow a baserunner in an appearance since May 29, and the first time since June 14 that Alex Colomé attempted and completed a save.
Tampa Bay's bullpen struggled over the club's stretch of losing 24 of 27 games, posting a 7.49 ERA during that span. But things are starting to change, and the Rays' bullpen has posted 11 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Things came together on Sunday, when the 'pen's two most reliable relievers pitched three spotless innings to close out Tampa Bay's 5-2 win over Baltimore.
"It was great to see Erasmo come in the ballgame and have some extra rest behind him and look fresh," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. " … Alex hadn't pitched in a while, either. We got a ton of confidence in Alex, whether it's a one-run ballgame, three-run, whatever it is."
Ramirez threw two innings, and Colome pitched one. Of the nine outs they recorded, seven were via the strikeout, including all of Colome's outs. The Rays had recorded just one save since June 14, and they have struggled to find wins with a bullpen that couldn't keep leads or games close.
Cash said the extra rest really helped Ramirez, who was the Rays' best reliever for the first two months of the season before his rough stretch saw his ERA skyrocket from 1.32 on May 7 to 4.35 going into July.
Colome had a seven-save stretch from June 3-14, but he hadn't had one since then -- granted, he spent 15 days on the disabled list.
"I have a long time not pitching in the game, saving a game," Colome said. "Tonight, I felt happy to be back and save the game for the team. My arm, my mind, feel 100 percent now."
The seven strikeouts were one shy of the season high for the bullpen, as it shut down an aggressive lineup -- one of the most potent in the Major Leagues. The Orioles lead the American League with 148 runs after the seventh inning this season.
But from the seventh inning on is when the Rays seemed most in control Sunday.
"This is baseball," Colome said. "One day we're strong, one day we're bad, a couple days good, sometimes tired. But we good now. Everything for the second half, we're doing great."
Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.