TORONTO -- The Rays' starting pitching is the strength of the team, that's a fact. What's perplexing has been seeing that unit not be as strong as expected in the early part of the season.
Drew Smyly picked up the win against the Blue Jays Monday night, giving the starting rotation eight for the season. Consider this: between 2010 and 2015, Rays starters accrued 381 wins, the third most in the Major Leagues.
More aggravating than the wins and losses, has been the starting group's inability to pitch deep into the games.
While Smyly got the win and pitched through some difficult moments to do so Monday night, he only pitched five innings. Heading into Tuesday night's action, Rays starters had gone more than five innings just once in their last seven games.
The starting rotation is its own biggest critic.
"Every starter takes pride in going deep," Smyly said. "That's what we want to do when it's our day to pitch. We want to pitch the whole game. The goal is to go nine. Obviously it's not going to happen most nights. We definitely want to go deeper than five innings. Five and dive isn't something starters feel good about at the end of the day. But it's tough.
"It's a tough league. A lot of tough lineups. They work your pitch count. This day and age, pitch counts are really important. Not many pitchers go over 100. I think we could get expanded a little bit more. It's not really our call, but we have to do a lot better job of being efficient, that's for sure."
Jake Odorizzi stated the obvious when he said, "As a starting staff, we can't go four innings, five innings consistently and expect to put our team in a good spot."
"You put the bullpen in a bad spot," Odorizzi said. "You're probably losing at that point, too, if you only went that far. As a staff, I think everyone would say they aren't happy with the way they've pitched per innings this year. I think we all have great room for improvement."
Last season there seemed to be a reluctance on management's part to let the starters go deeper. Now the pitchers seem to have been given a little extra rope in that regard, but they have not been able to take advantage of it.
"We earned it last year and didn't get it, and now going into this year I think maybe, I don't know for everybody, you have that in your head, you have more to work with, and who knows," Odorizzi said. "Maybe people are pressing a little bit too much to try and go deep in the game, and you don't even get halfway through the game."
Odorizzi believes the rotation will find a flow and start going deeper, which they must find a way to do.
"Because we've kind of used [the bullpen] quite a bit here in the last two or three weeks," Odorizzi said.
Rays manager Kevin Cash wasn't ready to throw his starters under the bus just yet.
"The starters, they have thrown the ball really well at times, they've hit a little bit of a patch where they've had five-inning starts," Cash said. "The funny thing is, some of these five and six-inning starts, they are good starts.
"The workload is a lot. ... Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opposing lineup for making our guys work and I think that's what's taken place."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.