ST. PETERSBURG -- After Tyler Glasnow went just 2 2/3 innings in an 8-4 loss to the Yankees in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Rays entered the second game knowing they were going to need strong, efficient innings out of a bullpen that has been relied on heavily over the last few games.
That’s exactly what manager Kevin Cash and the Rays got, as six pitchers helped the club secure a split of Saturday’s seven-inning doubleheader with a 5-3 win over the Yankees in the nightcap at Tropicana Field.
“We know we have a really good bullpen and guys that know how to pitch,” said Rays outfielder Austin Meadows, who delivered a two-run single in the fourth. “It’s fun to play behind those guys, and they were able to secure it tonight.”
Due to Yonny Chirinos landing on the 10-day injured list with right triceps inflammation, the Rays were forced to call an audible and turn Saturday's second game into a bullpen game. That alone presents its challenges, but the Rays also had to navigate a seven-inning game with a tired relief corps and against a potent Yankees lineup.
On Friday, the Rays used five relievers in the 1-0 win, including multi-inning outings by Andrew Kittredge and Chaz Roe. In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Rays used Sean Gilmartin and Oliver Drake, which likely meant they weren’t available to pitch in the second game.
“The bullpen has been called upon frequently. We’ve gassed them more than we like, but to a man they’ve done a tremendous job of stepping up,” Cash said. “It’s worth noting, too, in Game 1, Sean Gilmartin’s performance allowed us to have those opportunities to bring those guys in with a lead in leverage situations.”
Ryan Thompson, who was the 29th man on the roster for the doubleheader, got the start as the opener and he provided exactly what the Rays needed. Thompson made quick work of the Yankees’ offense, needing just 20 pitches to get through two scoreless frames.
“I don’t know if he’s ever opened a game, started a game, I have no idea,” Cash said. “Just a very professional, mature approach to go out attacking with his best stuff and creating a lot of ground balls.”
As Thompson shut down the Yankees’ lineup, the Rays’ offense jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a Yoshi Tsutsugo bases-loaded walk, which helped Cash and Tampa Bay better set up the pitching plan moving forward.
Had the Rays been tied or down in the game, the Rays might’ve turned to a bulk reliever such as Jalen Beeks or Trevor Richards, in order to try and save some arms. But with a lead, Cash leaned on the rest of his bullpen arms, and they delivered. Diego Castillo followed Thompson, delivering with a scoreless third inning despite walking No. 9 hitter Erik Kratz.
The Yankees had three hard-hit balls off Pete Fairbanks in the fourth, leading to New York’s first run, but a stellar throw by Kevin Kiermaier to throw out Gleyber Torres at third base helped the Rays keep it tied at 1. Kittredge, who pitched two innings Friday, delivered a shutout inning in the fifth.
In the fourth, the Rays scored two runs and followed it up with two more runs in the fifth on a Kevan Smith two-run single, pushing the Tampa Bay lead to 5-1. At the start of the inning, the Rays had Nick Anderson and Beeks warming up. If the lead had stayed at 3-1, the Rays would’ve gone with Anderson. But with a four-run lead, the Rays turned to Beeks to record the final six outs of the game.
Beeks, however, was only able to record five, which forced Cash to call on Anderson with two outs and a 5-3 lead. Anderson came through, retiring Aaron Judge to secure the save and wrapping up an otherwise stellar performance by the Rays’ pitching staff and superb bullpen management by Cash and the coaching staff.
“I thought it was like a fairly decent popup,” Anderson. “And then I see [Kiermaier] keep running back and I was like, ‘Oh jeez,’ but yeah, that’s the way it goes. Just cross my fingers that it didn’t go out.”
Though it’s still relatively early in the 60-game season, the win gets the Rays within three games of the Yankees in the American League East. It also guaranteed at least a split in the series, with the opportunity to take three of four with Charlie Morton on the mound on Sunday.
“We know we can compete with anybody out there when we’re going well. I think tomorrow is going to be a big one to try and get that series win against a tough team like the Yankees,” Meadows said. “We still have a decent amount of games and I think if we continue to compete and play hard, turn this thing around, and see where it goes.”