Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Rays, Odorizzi continue to roll, defeating Brewers

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[July 29, 2014]  ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Even as Tampa Bay Rays rookie right-hander Jake Odorizzi struggled through April, he figured bright days like this were ahead.

"I knew the first month wasn't me," he said.

Odorizzi, 24, continued his impressive roll Monday, allowing just one run in seven innings to lift the Rays to a 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2008. Odorizzi has given up three earned runs or less in his last nine starts, tying the third-longest stretch in club history.

"I don't want to say humbling, but at the same time, it is," Odorizzi said. "From the way things started off to how it is now, you can see the two sides of the coin, really bad and really good."

The Rays (52-54) have won 10 of their last 11 and are 28-12 since June 11, the best in the majors, pulling to within seven games of the AL East leading Orioles.

"Look at the Rays -- they had like the worst record in the league and now they're in the hunt for the playoffs," Brewers first baseman Mark Reynolds said.

The NL Central-leading Brewers (59-48) have lost two straight despite only allowing two runs in each game. Veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse cruised early on, holding the Rays hitless until the fourth and carrying a 1-0 lead through five, thanks to Reynolds' solo homer.

But the Rays took the lead with a two-out, two-run rally in the sixth. Left fielder Ben Zobrist started it off with a walk. Designated hitter Matt Joyce hit an opposite-field single down the left-field line, moving Zobrist to third. Lohse walked third baseman Evan Longoria on a very close 3-2 pitch. "A lot of them thought it was a (strike), but it was close," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "No doubt it turned (the game)."

The next batter, first baseman James Loney, delivered a bloop, two-run single, improving to 5-for-12 with the bases loaded this season.

"He always does that type of thing, so it's like, 'Oh he did it again,'" Odorizzi said. "He's a (heck) of a hitter and in that situation, where we really needed a big hit, it's the right guy up at the right time. It was a big hit for us and won us the game. It was his day."

Lohse lost for the third time in five starts in July after scattering four hits through six.

"It was just frustrating," Lohse said. "I felt like I threw the ball really well, made some good pitches. It was a tough one, I'll leave it at that."

Odorizzi, who won the fifth spot in the rotation out of spring training, had a tough first month, posting a 6.85 ERA in April. But Odorizzi said it just took some time, learning a lot from his fellow starters, finding the right mix for his pitches. On Monday, against a good off-speed hitting team like Milwaukee, Odorizzi used his slider a lot, and effectively.

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"I knew it was going to be a big swing pitch," Odorizzi said. "And it was really good."

Odorizzi only needed 91 pitches to get through seven, but manager Joe Maddon went to his trusty reliever tandem of righty Brad Boxberger and lefty Jake McGee, which he's dubbed "Jake in the Box." Boxberger struck out the side in the eighth, and McGee pitched a perfect ninth to record his 12th save in 13 chances, pleasing the crowd of 12,660 at Tropicana Field.

Odorizzi understood the move to go to the bullpen early. But after having outdueled Adam Wainwright and his childhood Cardinals in his last start, Odorizzi had already proven up to the task in another big matchup. Odorizzi is 5-2 over his last nine starts with a 2.25 ERA.

"Odorizzi was fabulous," Maddon said. "Odorizzi was the reason why we won (Monday), plain and simple."

NOTES: The Rays activated RHP Joel Peralta (illness) from the disabled list. To make room, they designated LHP Erik Bedard for assignment. ... Rays C Ryan Hanigan (left oblique strain) said he will play a minor league rehab game Wednesday for Class A Charlotte and could rejoin the team Friday. ... Brewers minor league 3B Nick Delmonico was suspended 50 games under the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program Monday after testing positive for an amphetamine. ... The Brewers were held to three hits or less for the ninth time. ... The 2:35 game was the fourth-fastest Rays game this year.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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