CHICAGO -- The biggest at-bat in the night came during the bottom of the fifth inning when the Chicago White Sox had the bases-loaded and Jose Abreu coming to bat. It was the same Jose Abreu who won Friday’s game with a walk-off grand slam.
On the mound for the Tampa Bay Rays was Cesar Ramos, who is still making the transition from long-man in the bullpen to starting pitcher. He needed one more out to match his career high for innings pitch.
What to do?
Brandon Gomes was in the bullpen ready to go.
“I just put the seat belt on,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
He let Ramos go, and Ramos rewarded Maddon’s faith by getting Abreu to roll over a changeup and ground out to Evan Longoria, who made a nice play to field the slow roller.
The Rays won 4-0 to snap a three-game losing streak and erase the sting of Friday’s loss.
“It was huge, almost took their wind out (of their sails),” Ramos said about facing Abreu. “He gets a hit they’re right back in the game. That’s their big guy. I made a pretty decent pitch and Longo made an amazing play getting to the ball.”
While another starter failed to go more than five innings for the ninth time in the 12 games since Alex Cobb went on the disabled list, the Rays did receive a shutdown effort from the pitching staff that began with Ramos (five innings) and continued with Gomes (three) and Juan Carlos Oviedo (one).
“Getting out of jams is what it comes down to,” catcher Ryan Hanigan said. “When things are going good, things can roll pretty smoothly. But when the pressure is on you got to make pitches and (Ramos) has the stuff to do it. He’s got bottoming stuff, stuff where he misses in the bottom of the zone, and that’s big against a team like (Chicago). These guys can really swing it. You miss up they can really hurt you.”
Hanigan gave the Rays all the runs they would need with a two-run double in the second inning. The Rays have now doubled in all 24 games this season. No other team in baseball went more than 14.
Hanigan also has 14 RBI this month, matching the team record for RBI in April by a catcher set in 1999 by John Flaherty.
James Loney, the lone left-handed bat in the lineup against Chicago lefty John Danks, singled home Wil Myers in the third inning to give the Rays a 3-0 lead.
The Rays made it 4-0 in the sixth when Ben Zobrist walked with two outs and scored on Desmond Jennings’ triple to the top of the center field wall.
By then, things had been decided by what Maddon didn’t do in the bottom of the fifth. He didn’t pull Ramos for Gomes. By not doing that, Maddon called for Gomes when Ramos allowed a single to start the sixth. And by allowing Gomes to pitch three innings, Maddon created rest for Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour.
“I’m always going to make the decision on what’s based on the team, but what’s happened more recently you just can’t kill your bullpen either,” Maddon said. “I didn’t know Gomes was going to be able to go three.”
Leaving Ramos in also showed faith in Ramos though should serve Ramos and the Rays well.
“It’s tremendous,” said Maddon, who was ejected in the eighth inning for arguing a check-swing. “Not only does he get through it, he gets his win. Starting pitchers live and die by wins. He’s going to leave this ballpark, he’s going to feel great about himself, and he should. His last two starts have been tremendous. They’ve been a combined 10 innings, but they’ve been really good 10 innings for us. I like the thought that he’s leaving a winner and that’s only going to make him better.”