Starting pitching coming around for Rays

Starting pitching coming around for Rays

KANSAS CITY -- Things are looking up for the Rays' starting pitching, offering a brighter outlook for the team's fortunes.

Matt Andriese started Monday night and got a no-decision as the Rays fell to the Royals, 6-2. Andriese allowed one earned run in seven innings of work. Not only did Andriese pitch well, those seven innings extended the recent streak by Rays starters.

"From a pitching perspective, we're starting to string together some pretty good starts," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "That's probably the most encouraging [thing] from the loss."

In the team's last six games, the starters have pitched at least six innings, giving the group its longest streak since they went six consecutive starts of six innings or more from June 23 to 29 of last season.

"That's what we focus on as a staff," Andriese said. "Just to go deep. Give us a chance to win. ... Collectively, I think if we're all going deep into the game, more times than not we're going to end up with a win."

The importance of the streak lies in the fact that the fewer innings the Rays starters leave for the bullpen to cover, the better the bullpen should be. Also, Brad Boxberger's return has strengthened the bullpen, giving the Rays stronger options once their starters make their exit.

Thus, the likes of Boxberger, Alex Colome, Xavier Cedeno, and Erasmo Ramirez would find themselves in more matchup situations -- fine tuning, as compared to just giving the team a surplus of innings and potentially wearing themselves out.

Unfortunately for the Rays, reality and theory sometimes do not co-exist, which has been the case during the current stretch the team is going through that has seen them go 1-5 despite the improved performance by the starters.

Oddly, on the Rays' last road trip, the starters only went six innings twice in eight starts, yet the team went 5-3.

"In fairness, they have to do it more than one time through the rotation," said Cash when asked about the frustration of seeing his starters going deeper into the games and not having wins follow those results. "We've had three or four good starts. There's no doubt about that.

"Every time we lose it's frustrating. Whether it's because we didn't pitch well. We didn't hit. ... It really doesn't matter. At the end of the day, a loss is a loss."

The difference between the two stretches comes in the fact the Rays' offense scored an average of seven runs per game on their last road trip. Conversely, in the Rays' last six games the offense has averaged less than three runs per game.

"We're scuffling," Steve Pearce said. "We're scuffling as a team. When we're pitching we're not hitting. And when we're hitting, we're not pitching. So it's kind of just one of those things with baseball. We have to grind through it. Every team goes through it. Right now we have to focus on minimizing the damage and tomorrow's a new day."

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.