Rookie pitcher Andy Sonnanstine pitched impressively for seven innings before giving way to Tampa Bay's beleaguered bullpen, picking up his first victory in the big leagues.
Sonnanastine left with a lead after his debut in Toronto, but the bullpen blew a five run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Blue Jays the win that night. Or maybe I should just say the bullpen blew.
Against the Marlins, the righty gave up two earned runs in seven innings, both on solo home runs, while striking out 10. He also set a Devil Rays record by fanning seven batters in a row.
Shawn Camp (6.08 ERA) took over in the eighth and allowed the Florida Marlins to close the gap to 6-4. Casey Fossum came in to record the final out of the inning.
The Rays tacked on another three runs in the top of the ninth, and Al Reyes closed out the game in the bottom of the ninth without allowing a baserunner.
With the five-run lead Reyes was not eligible for a save, but he lowered his ERA to 1.95--easily the best among Rays relievers.
The Rays, right now, have a solid team with the exception of the bullpen. The team has scored runs on a fairly consistent basis despite a number of lineup changes made necessary by injuries.
Brendan Harris has been a key factor in the daily lineup. Harris was acquired when shortstop Ben Zobrist showed himself not yet able to hit Major League pitching. Harris is a solid fielder, albeit without Zobrist's range, but has more than made up for it by hitting .313, and hitting 5 home runs with 23 RBIs.
Rocco Baldelli and B. J. Upton are both out with muscle injuries (hamstring and quadriceps, respectively) but the team hasn't missed a beat so far in their absence.
Pitching has been the Rays main problem all season. Starters other than James Shields (5-0, 3.04) and Scott Kazmir (4-3, 3.92) had ERAs soaring over 7.0, even making the horrible bullpen look good by comparison. Fossum probably rated his move the bullpen based on his being a left-handed pitcher.
Last weekend, the Rays brought up two starting pitchers from Durham. J. P. Howell throws slower than a track & field scene from "Chariots of Fire," but after two starts he's 1-0 with a 4.85 ERA. Sonnanstine's second start leaves him 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA.
With decent pitching from the bullpen, the Rays could have gone 7-0 on this road trip. The bullpen issues will probably not be addressed this year. If the Rays find two solid starters in addition to Shields and Kazmir, this team may be willing to spend its way into contention as early as next year.
By that I mean adding a key piece or two (in the Bullpen?!) to put the team over the top.