Rays ride Rasmussen, sit alone atop 30-win plateau

Righty extends scoreless streak vs. Yanks, Tampa Bay 1st team to 30 wins for 2nd time

May 12th, 2023

NEW YORK -- Prior to Thursday’s action, right-hander had thrown 14 scoreless innings with 19 strikeouts during his career against the Yankees.

He faced them for the fourth time in the series opener, and the results were the same. Rasmussen dealt for seven scoreless innings and helped the Rays beat the Yankees, 8-2, at Yankee Stadium.

For the second time in franchise history (2010), the Rays are the first Major League team to reach 30 wins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“That’s saying something,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “You are talking about [30 clubs]. That’s really impressive. We feel like we have a good team. We made things go our way. Other things have gone our way. Very fortunate to be where we are at. I’m proud of the guys.”

The Yankees didn’t have an answer for Rasmussen from the start. He retired 14 of the first 15 hitters he faced. New York collected only two hits against the Rays’ starter and struck out seven times, three of them coming from Aaron Judge. Even more impressive, the Yankees never had a runner in scoring position when Rasmussen was on the mound.

"We got a couple pitches to hit there throughout the game, but you've got to tip your cap on some of those,” Judge said. “[Rasmussen] made his pitches when he had to, kept us off balance the whole time he was out there. We couldn't really get anything going offensively.

“I don't think he walked a single guy, so he was pounding the zone but still working the edges as well. So you've got to tip your cap, but we've got to come up with a better game plan in the box and execute it."

Early on in the game, it was obvious Rasmussen was going to have a great game. Of the first 10 hitters he faced, Rasmussen had 10 first-pitch strikes.

“It doesn’t always happen. Usually, what we are trying to do is to attack the strike zone, especially early,” Rasmussen said. “Hitters start to expand with you if you fill it up early. It’s one of those things where if you get on the defensive, you have a chance to create more swing and miss and weak contact. That’s always the game plan.”

Rasmussen seemed surprised he had held the Yankees scoreless for 21 innings during his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it trails John Morris’ 22 1/3 inning scoreless streak and Troy Percival’s 21 1/3 inning scoreless streak for the longest such stretch to start a career vs. the Yankees in the Expansion Era (since 1961).

“I wouldn’t have guessed it was that many [innings],” Rasmussen said. “That’s a really good lineup over there. It’s one of those things [where you] attack the strike zone early and often and let the defense make plays. And then when you get to two strikes, you throw a competitive pitch and take it one pitch at a time.”

The Rays hurler found himself in a pitcher’s duel with Yankees right-hander Domingo Germán, who allowed one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. The first run for Tampa Bay scored in the fifth inning, as scored all the way from first on a double by Yandy Díaz after reaching base on an error by first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Germán was already out of the game when the Rays put the game out of reach in the sixth inning. The bases were loaded when Lowe swung at a Ron Marinaccio changeup and cleared the bases with a double to make it a four-run game.

By the eighth inning, Lowe had further enhanced one of his best games of the season when he hit a two-run homer off Ryan Weber, and he finished by driving in five of the Rays’ eight runs.

“He had a big day,” Cash said about Lowe. “He has made huge strides we talked about throughout the season. No different today. … There were some swing adjustments that [he] and [hitting coach] Chad [Mottola] talked about during the offseason. It certainly carried into Spring Training. And then, success. He learned from not performing like he was capable of. It’s tough. He lived it for a long time last year. We are thrilled he is having so much success.”

The Rays scored a combined three runs in their previous two games against the Orioles -- both losses. Tampa Bay was facing a tough Orioles pitching staff. But Lowe said there wasn’t any panic in the Rays’ clubhouse entering Thursday’s game against the Yankees.

“We know with the guys we have in this clubhouse … we are going to go out there and put up nights like tonight,” he said.