Righty tosses 5 2/3 scoreless innings in first start since coming off DL
By Troy Provost-Heron
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jake Odorizzi had not thrown for the Rays since June 5 after suffering a left oblique strain in Seattle that placed him on the disabled list, but on Saturday, he pitched as if he had never left.
The right-hander returned to the Rays' rotation as good as ever, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out five to earn the victory in Tampa Bay's 3-0 win over the Astros.
"The time off is really not too terrible," Odorizzi said. "I felt pretty good in all my rehab starts, but the competition level from there to here is different, so I put a little more effort into it, but I didn't feel like I was any different from before I got hurt to today."
Odorizzi kicked off his return by retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced, but he ran into some trouble in the fourth after he allowed Tampa native Preston Tucker to reach on a single to lead off the inning and followed that up by walking Carlos Correa.
Odorizzi was able to get the next two Astros batters, but another walk, this one to Luis Valbuena, loaded the bases before he tiptoed out of danger and kept his scoreless game intact by getting Hank Conger to foul out to third baseman Evan Longoria.
"I think at some points in the game I got too cute with [my offspeed stuff] and I threw it a little too much and got behind, which caused me to walk guys," Odorizzi said. "If I execute a few good pitches there, it's a different story. I just wasn't executing too many of them, but I was able to make good pitches when it counted."
Escaping the jam in the fourth, though, came with a little less pressure than it has in the past for Odorizzi. Entering Saturday's contest, the Rays had provided more than two runs of support just twice in 12 starts, attributing to the fifth-lowest run support in the American League at 2.7 runs per nine innings pitched.
But in the second inning, the Rays got to Astros' left-hander and All-Star Dallas Keuchel with a two-run double by Rene Rivera and an RBI single from Brandon Guyer that came right after a controversial ball-strike call by home plate umpire Greg Gibson on a 2-2 count that kept the inning alive.
"He'd been battling hard early in the year when he had no run support at all," Rivera said. "But the good thing about him is he kept himself composed. He went out there and he pitched, and if we win or not, he minds, but he doesn't show it, and that's what good players do."
The performance gave the Rays consecutive wins for the first time since June 19-20 at Cleveland while also providing a building block for Odorizzi's second half after the All-Star break.
"I think this start will propel me into the second half," Odorizzi said. "To know the time off didn't really affect me at all, and I was still able to do what I did before I was hurt. I think it's a confidence boost."
Troy Provost-Heron is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.