There were a few encouraging developments that took place for the Rays on Sunday in Houston. First, it was learned Zach Eflin will pitch Tuesday night against the Yankees in the Bronx. The righthander hurt his left knee attempting to field a bunt in Wednesday’s game against Miami at Tropicana Field.
While an MRI revealed a muscle strain, other tests were clean. Eflin, whose 11 wins are tied for the MLB lead with six others, including Shane McClanahan, had a bullpen session Saturday. He was cleared to return to action Sunday.
Zach Littell then threw his most pitches (82) in four years while helping lead the Rays to an 8-2 victory and series win over the Astros. The righthander, who was claimed off waivers from Boston in May, provided a much-needed five innings in picking up the win, his first of 2023.
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Littell, who the Rays have been stretching out, allowed eight hits but did not walk a batter in allowing both Houston runs. His five innings were a career-high, topping the 4 1/3 he went against the Rays with Minnesota in 2019.
Does the good news on Eflin and Littell’s outing mean Tampa Bay, which is 1.5 games behind Baltimore in the American League East, will remain quiet as Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline approaches? That, of course, is something we will find out, though the number of available starting pitchers is shrinking after a number of trades have been made.
The Rays’ offense more than did its part Sunday in scoring their most runs since a 10-4 win over Atlanta on July 9 in the final game before the all-star break. In their first 14 post-break games they scored as many as five runs only twice while topping out at six.
While the Rays got help from an error by first baseman Jose Abreu, they took advantage of the miscue in putting four runs on the board in the first inning. That was more than enough for Littell, who exited with a 6-2 lead.
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Erasmo Ramirez, who made his first appearance in his second stint (2015-17) with Tampa Bay, followed Littell by throwing three shutout innings. The 33-year-old released by Washington in early June and signed to a minor-league deal by the Rays a few days later.
It’s off to the Bronx for a three-game series beginning Monday night when Tyler Glasnow (4-3, 3.36 ERA) takes the mound for the Rays. Following a day off Thursday, their nine-game trip resumes with a weekend series in Detroit.
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