Improved D key to Rays' pitching prowess

Improved D key to Rays' pitching prowess

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have been proving lately that they don't need to score many runs to win.

Tampa Bay entered Saturday's game against Baltimore having won five of its last six and relying heavily on its pitching staff, which in that span had allowed just five runs, four of which came in the club's only loss.

The Rays' strong pitching hasn't been confined to the past week, either. Since the All-Star break, the club leads the Majors with a 2.34 ERA and is holding opposing batters to a .202 average.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he feels the strong run can continue.

"Our guys are well; they're healthy," Maddon said. "I don't think their innings pitched are too high, nor number of pitches thrown. I'm talking about the starters and relievers."

At times, the pitching staff has been tasked with lots of work, including a 14-inning game on July 20 and a 15-inning contest 10 days later. Maddon said that as the season progresses, he thinks his starters will continue to pitch deeper into games to help preserve the bullpen, which has a Major League-best 1.40 ERA since the break.

"That's going to take an inning or two off here or there, and that's going to be helpful," Maddon said. "The young starters are going to start going deeper into games. I like the pitching a lot, not a little, and I think that's going to be the key to our success."

Unquestionably, Tampa Bay's defense has played a hand in keeping opponents off the scoreboard. In the 86 games before the break, the club committed 71 errors, but in the 20 games since, that total is just seven -- tied for third fewest in the Majors.

"When you're catching the ball, you have to make less pitches; the pitcher has more defense," Maddon said. "When you're catching the ball, you're probably in a better state of mind. When you don't make mistakes, you feel better about yourselves. There's a lot of complementary things that occur when you do those things well and right."