Cash manages 'pen in playoff fashion to seal victory
NEW YORK -- Kevin Cash told reporters on Friday that games would be managed as if they were playoff games for the remainder of the season.
The Rays' manager followed through on that promise by lifting his starter earlier than he might have in August and going all in with his bullpen. That philosophy paid rich dividends in a 3-2 Rays win on Saturday over the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Matt Moore started for the Rays, making his first start since returning to the team from Triple-A Durham. He looked much improved over what he showed when he first returned to the Rays following Tommy John surgery.
"I thought he was outstanding," Cash said. "I was happy for him. In my opinion, he looked like a different guy, as far as the way he continued to pound the strike zone. He got a lot of [swings and misses on his] fastball. He got a lot of [swings and misses] on the curveball. I don't think the curveball was as sharp warming up, but he found it once the game started."
Moore walked John Ryan Murphy to start the fifth before Didi Gregorius doubled to left-center field to drive him home. One out later, with Gregorius on third, Brett Gardner grounded out to shortstop to drive home Gregorius and cut the lead to 3-2. Moore then walked Chris Young, prompting Cash to bring in Brandon Gomes to face Alex Rodriguez.
"We thought that was the best opportunity for us to win with Rodriguez coming up," Cash said.
Moore came up an out shy of qualifying for the win.
"Cash told me we're going to manage the game to win it, not necessarily to get me to a certain pitch count -- or any pitcher for that matter," Moore said. "I understand the move right there. I had my shot at Young to lead off the fifth. If I wouldn't have had a leadoff walk, things might have been different with Didi up there."
Gomes walked Rodriguez then retired Carlos Beltran on a line out to center. That began a stretch that saw the bullpen cover the final 5 1/3 innings of the game without allowing a run to score.
Xavier Cedeno posted 1 2/3 scoreless innings -- striking out four -- before Alex Colome pitched the next 1 1/3 innings, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the eighth.
Colome has been lights out since joining the bullpen, so, in hindsight, Cash felt as though Colome's struggles would provide him with a growth moment. Closer Brad Boxberger thought the same.
"It was probably the first time he's had a couple of runners on that I can remember since he moved to the 'pen," Boxberger said. "For him to get out of it -- and show what he can do with that -- is a great moment. ... He's been all success so far. So to struggle a little bit and still get out of it is definitely an, "OK, I can do this kind of thing," feeling.
Boxberger followed Colome with a clean ninth to earn his 34th save of the season, which came on the heels of Wednesday's blown save against the Orioles.
"Any time out there with a clean inning, it feels good," Boxberger said, "especially coming back from a little shaky one there."