CHICAGO — The strikeouts came in bunches for Jake Odorizzi. They came early, too.
He walked off the mound after the second inning having struck out five successive Cubs hitters.
That wasn’t the plan. It was the byproduct of the plan.
Odorizzi didn’t pitch aggressively in his previous start, and the Angels made him pay.
This time he went after hitters, and it was the Cubs who paid.
The Rays rolled to a 4-0 victory Saturday at Wrigley Field behind six innings of three-hit ball by Odorizzi.
“I was just happy to win a game,” Odorizzi said. “And after last time out to get back on the right track in general.”
Odorizzi struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter as the Rays extended their winning streak to three and closed to within two wins of .500.
“Aggressive. Assertive. Came out and went right after them,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I love the attitude. It wasn’t pandering around. I’ll tell you what, (the Cubs) are good. The top of that batting order is thick. They compete. They have power. There’s a lot of good stuff at the top of that batting order, so I was pleased with the way (Odorizzi) went after them.”
Odorizzi said the start against the Angels, when he allowed five runs in three innings, was just one of those days. Maddon called it a “mulligan,” and Odorizzi pitched Saturday as if his previous start was just a hiccup and not a regression to his early-season form, when the rookie couldn’t handle a lineup the second time through the order.
Odorizzi said he felt the same against the Cubs as he did against the Angels. His fastball was sharper and he had more depth on his change-up, and those pitches gave the Cubs fits.
“I was throwing the ball where I wanted and it was one of those days where you got the good feeling, you know where it’s going and you know where you’re going to put it, and we were able to get strikeouts,” Odorizzi said. “But I really wasn’t going for strikeouts. I was just trying to go get it as fast as I can, put it in play and let’s keep going.”
Evan Longoria drove in Ben Zobrist for the first run of the game in the fourth inning with a double to left field. That came after Zobrist hit a drive to deep right field that bounced off Justin Ruggiano’s glove and disappeared into the ivy. That’s a ground-rule double according to Wrigley Field ground rules, but Maddon questioned the rule.
Maddon’s argument was had the ball hit off Ruggiano’s glove and landed on the other side of the wall, it would be a home run. So why shouldn’t an outfielder who deflects the ball into the ivy be forced to play the ball?
“I think it’s a simplification of it, which makes it easier to make the call on the umpire’s part,” Maddon said. “I don’t play here enough. I have no business piping up, but I just thought the fact they pushed the ball in the ivy should create a different rule.”
Yunel Escobar drove in the final three runs without incident and the Rays improved to 3-2 on the 10-game, three-city road trip.
Odorizzi improved to 6-2 in his past eight starts with the help of Kirby Yates, who picked up two innings, and Jake McGee, who pitched the ninth. The three combined to strike out 15 without walking a batter.
“That’s pretty outstanding,” Maddon said. “That’s about as good as it gets right there.”
That those two relievers worked with comfortable leads was due to Odorizzi’s bounce-back performance.
“He’s been great for us,” Longoria said. “It seems like every time he goes out there he’s giving us a quality start.”