ANAHEIM -- Of all the moves the Rays’ front office has made over the past six months, it’s hard to find a more crucial acquisition than nabbing Travis d'Arnaud from the Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations.
Since being acquired on May 10, d’Arnaud has had a knack for producing a big hit when the Rays need it most, and that was the case again Saturday night. Tampa Bay’s catcher delivered a three-run double in the sixth inning to lift the Rays over the Angels, 3-1, at Angel Stadium.
“I just try to keep things simple,” d’Arnaud said. “It’s not just me in the box, the pitcher is on the mound, too, so I don’t know what’s going on in his mind, so as long as I can control my mind and keep things as simple as possible, I know I have a good chance of succeeding.”
The Rays stretched their lead for the second American League Wild Card spot to 2 1/2 games over the Indians, who were swept in a doubleheader by the Twins. With 12 games remaining in the regular season, Tampa Bay remains a half-game back of Oakland for the top AL Wild Card spot.
With Saturday’s heroics, d’Arnaud has 22 game-tying or go-ahead RBIs this season, second on the team behind only Austin Meadows’ 27. d’Arnaud is also tied with Meadows for the team lead with 63 RBIs since joining the team on May 11.
“We feel pretty good when Travis is hitting with guys on base,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s really come up big for us all season long to this point, and no bigger one than that. We had to find a way to get one [run] across, and we were fortunate to get three.”
The Rays' offense, which came into Saturday’s game averaging more than six runs per game since August 28, was held quiet for the first five innings. But they finally got to the Angels' bullpen in the sixth. The Halos used four pitchers in the frame, but Tampa Bay put together good at-bats, highlighted by a pair of walks from Meadows and Ji-Man Choi and a single by Joey Wendle, before d’Arnaud delivered with the bases-clearing double on a 3-2 count against Taylor Cole.
d’Arnaud’s double was the only offense the Rays needed behind Tyler Glasnow, Trevor Richards and the rest of the their bullpen. Emilio Pagan secured his 20th save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth.
A few things will have to go Glasnow’s way in order for the right-hander to get stretched out enough to get deeper into games as a starter. He will have to pitch well and continue to build on his pitch count each start.
Glasnow held up his end during his second start since returning from the injured list, striking out five over three scoreless frames and allowing two hits and a walk.
“I felt pretty sharp,” Glasnow said. “Velo was there, spin was there. I think it was nice to come out here and have a lot of family come out. I think the atmosphere here is great, so the adrenaline is there. Everything felt sharp, and I felt when I was behind, I was confident enough to make my pitches.”
After throwing 41 pitches in two innings in his return from a right forearm injury last Sunday, Glasnow was scheduled to pitch three innings or 55 pitches. He got near that pitch count, throwing 51 pitches, including 27 for strikes.
“I’ve been recovering really well in between starts and each inning feels really good, and as long as my velo is there and I feel like I’m spinning it as efficiently every inning, I know I’m good to go,” Glasnow said. “By the third inning, everything felt really good, so the buildup has been going pretty well.”
Glasnow recorded only two swing-and-misses, both coming on the curveball, but he had 11 called strikes with the fastball, three of them resulting in a strikeout, including a 100 mph heater on the outside corner to strike out Kole Calhoun to end the third.
“I thought he looked good,” Cash said. “Made a big pitch there to end the third inning, which was really encouraging. Got him three ups and 51 pitches. I’m guessing he’s going to say he had more in the tank, but we were good where we were at. Just another thing that we’ve crossed.”
The Rays' magic number to reach the postseason is down to 11.
“We’ve been looking [at the scoreboard] in the bullpen for about a month and a half,” Pagan said. “We don’t talk about it a lot in the [clubhouse]. Everybody knows where we’re at so there’s no need to really talk about it. But we’re for sure looking at the scoreboard during the game and seeing what’s going on. It’s going to come down to the last two weeks, for sure. We just have to keep playing good ball and take care of what we can take care of.”