Ramírez lifts 're-energized' Rays in full-bullpen win

August 6th, 2023

DETROIT -- pounded his mitt in frustration when Tampa Bay barely missed out on an inning-ending double play in the third inning. Pitching coach Kyle Snyder had recently been out for a chat, Shawn Armstrong was warming in the bullpen and Ramírez knew he was on borrowed time.

As the defense reset, Ramírez’s eyes remained trained on Christian Bethancourt, imploring his catcher to give him a ball before manager Kevin Cash had time to give him the hook.

Ramírez, who began his second tenure with the Rays shortly after the Nationals released him on June 8, shouldn’t have been on the hill just then. Sunday was Tyler Glasnow’s turn to start, but Glasnow was a late scratch with back spasms, forcing Tampa Bay to pivot to a bullpen game for the finale against the Tigers.

Ramírez was 52 pitches into his 58-pitch day, by far his highest count of the season and more than he’d thrown since 2018, when he was a starter with Seattle. But he wanted this battle, and he was going to win it.

He lifted both arms in the air, facing home plate. Let’s go, the gesture read. And then Ramírez got Tigers slugger Riley Greene to strike out swinging on an 80.5 mph curveball to end the frame and his outing during Tampa Bay's 10-6 win over Detroit at Comerica Park.

The Rays churned out 13 hits to claim the series win, led by a homer apiece from Yandy Díaz, Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe. Díaz, who had two RBIs, finished a triple shy of the cycle; Franco also had two RBIs and three hits.

“Coming into this road trip, we were having a tough go, but I feel like this road trip kind of re-energized [us],” Cash said. “The guys’ at-bats have kind of come to life a little bit.”

Behind Ramírez came a steady procession of relievers -- six total, led by Colin Poche’s 1 2/3 scoreless innings that lowered his ERA to 2.45 in 44 games this season.

Tampa Bay led, 6-2, when Poche took the hill with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth and wasted no time in inducing a sac fly from Jake Rogers. Left fielder Randy Arozarena secured the out and then, in a heads-up play, fired to second base to double off Andy Ibáñez and end the inning.

Poche returned for the fifth and allowed only a pair of harmless singles to cap his longest outing since Aug. 25, 2022.

“I was able to keep the pitch count low, but to pitch and then go back out, it’s not something I’ve done this year,” he said. “But a day like today, where the bullpen is going to be called on heavily, I knew it was a definite possibility, and it was something I was prepared for.”

The way Ramírez and Poche attacked their outings offered just a taste of what’s going on with the Rays this season, but each was also a good example of the competitive fire that’s kept Tampa Bay from sinking too low when adversity strikes.

The Rays have indeed dealt with a lot during this road trip -- which included three games each against the Astros, Yankees and Tigers -- and still managed to come away with series wins on each leg. What’s more, Tampa Bay kept a firm hold on second place in the American League East and remained in control of the top AL Wild Card spot.

The club went 3-7 in its first 10 games out of the break, but has trended upwards again lately, including this 6-3 road swing.

Poche said the club’s mentality has had a lot to do with the turnaround.

“I think we have a really resilient group here,” he said. “I think we have a lot of guys who are willing to do whatever it takes to win, and I think that was kind of on full display today.”

Glasnow was the Rays’ second starter to go down with an injury this week. The Rays don’t expect him to miss his next start, but there has been a lot less information available on Shane McClanahan, who is on the 15-day IL and is set for a Monday consult with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache to determine the extent of his left forearm tightness.