Taj Bradley, Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays’ Starting Rotation Has Been Stingy Of Late

Taj Bradley, Tampa Bay Rays
Taj Bradley, Credit: Tampa Bay Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Rays begin a six-game road trip Tuesday night in Kansas City having won four straight series. They are 9-4 in their last 13 games, though 0-for-2 when it comes to getting over .500. The 42-42 Rays will get another shot in the Show Me State.

While there has been timely hitting with what was much-needed power mixed in, the starting rotation has been showing what it can do during the team’s recent run of success.

Taj Bradley threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings and equaled his career high with 11 strikeouts in the Rays’ 5-0 win over the visiting Nationals on Sunday. The 23-year-old’s sparkling effort extended the rotation’s streak of seven straight outings of allowing no more than two earned runs. The quintet of Bradley, Zach Eflin, Zack Littell, Ryan Pepiot and Aaron Civale have a 1.66 ERA in that span.

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“We are going to go as our pitching goes,” manager Kevin Cash said after Sunday’s game. “That is kind of how we are built.”

While turning in five or six innings is hardly a big deal, that is how the game is today. Because Rays starters have been consistently pitching into the sixth inning of late, life is much easier on the bullpen. After all, there is nothing more taxing than, say, consecutive outings in which the starter fails to get out of the fourth inning.

“It does feel like we are getting deep enough in games and having that longer start,” said Cash. “We can get aggressive maybe with the bullpen and rely on them the next day. Then get another longer start. It’s been synched up really, really well. At the end of the day, we have to pitch well to win series and that is what we have been doing.”

Bradley has been pitching very well. In five starts since allowing nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings at Baltimore on June 1, the righthander has a 1.24 ERA while fanning 40 in 29 innings. The Rays won each of those outings.

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“That start in Baltimore, I feel like it would have gotten to a lot of people,” said Bradley. “But I have a lot of good people within the clubhouse. Family and stuff like that just pushed me through it, and success comes along with it.”

The Rays will send Littell (2-5, 4.17) to the mound in the series opener against the Royals. He will be opposed by Brady Singer (4-4, 3.12), a former Florida Gator. Cash’s team is four games behind Kansas City for the final wild-card spot with the Red Sox and Astros sandwiched in between.

Following three games in K.C., the Rays head to the Lone Star State for a three-game series against the Rangers. They return home next Tuesday to open a six-game homestand against the Yankees and Guardians that will take them into the all-star break.

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