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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Tampa Bay Rays

Odorizzi homecoming nets Rays sixth straight win

— Jake Odorizzi attended so many Cardinals games at both old and new Busch Stadium that he’d lost count. But he never witnessed a game from the vantage point he had Tuesday — the mound.

Pitching in front of friends and family for the first time since he left Highland, Ill., after his senior year of high school for pro ball, Odorizzi outpitched All-Star Adam Wainwright and kept the Rays rolling with a 7-2 victory.

“I didn’t know what to expect coming in, and I didn’t think I’d have that much nerves to be honest,” Odorizzi said. “I definitely had a lot nerves. I was nervous. I was excited. Just about everything you can be. I was on cloud nine that first inning. Not the way I want to start off, but I guess it’s a good way to settle in and bring you back to reality quickly.”

Odorizzi allowed a leadoff home run to Matt Carpenter, then walked Kolten Wong. But Jose Molina threw Wong out trying to steal second, and Odorizzi said that helped settle his nerves.

“I was really amped up,” Odorizzi said. “Home run and the walk after that, I’m like, ‘Oh man, I need to calm down and make pitches.’ It helped that I got that first out of the way.

The Rays extended their winning streak to a season-high six games with their 15th win in their past 19 games and are five games under .500, the fewest they’ve been since May 25.

The Rays also have won seven straight road games, tied for the second-longest road winning streak in team history. They’ve won eight straight on the road twice.

With the victory, the Rays jumped over the Red Sox and are in fourth place in the AL East.

The Cardinals’ lead didn’t last long, because Odorizzi drove in the Rays’ first run in the top of the second inning with a sacrifice bunt.

When asked what he would have thought had a greater chance of happening — outpitching Wainwright or driving in a run in his first time at the plate since his senior year of high school — Odorizzi went with the RBI.

“I wouldn’t think there was going to be an RBI chance for me and take advantage of it,” he said. “I think I was more shaky and nervous and excited after that than the first inning, walking out for the first pitch. I was really nervous when I went out there in the first. It was awesome.”

Odorizzi and Wainwright, the starter for the National League in last week’s All-Star game, then matched zeroes until the fifth, when Wainwright fell apart.

The inning began with a walk to Kevin Kiermaier. Ben Zobrist reached on an error with one out. Matt Joyce gave the Rays the lead with a double to left. Evan Longoria loaded the bases when he was hit by a pitch.

Loney drew a walk to force in Zobrist. Yunel Escobar doubled down the right-field line to score two more and the Rays had a 5-1 lead.

They made it 6-1 when Longoria came home from third when Jose Molina grounded out weakly to third base.

Longoria homered with two outs in the ninth for the final run of the night. It was his 12th home run of the season, his first since July 4 against the Tigers in Detroit.

Wainwright entered the game with a major league-low 1.86 ERA. He had allowed only four earned runs in his previous six starts, but the Rays reached him for six runs (four earned) in 4 2⁄3 innings.

Rays manager Joe Maddon was ejected in the third inning when he argued a called strike three on a check swing by Zobrist. Maddon said he didn’t want home plate umpire Mark Ripperger to expand the strike zone for Wainwright.

Wainwright took exception of this from the mound and yelled at Maddon. Maddon yelled back.

Maddon said that was the first time he can recall an opposing pitcher yelling at him.

“It doesn’t happen every day,” he said.

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