ST. PETERSBURG — In Drew Rasmussen’s last start against a tough Blue Jays lineup on Friday, his high-octane arsenal produced only one strikeout. It was his lowest strikeout total of the season, yet one of his most impressive starts overall. On Wednesday afternoon against the Tigers, Rasmussen struck out seven, two shy of his career high.
To Rasmussen, there is a difference — but not a meaningful one. It’s nice to pile up strikeouts from a “selfish” perspective, he said Tuesday. But in his mind, the number by his name under the “K” column in the box score is not the best indicator of success.
“The ultimate marker is, do we have a chance to win?” Rasmussen said. And when he takes the mound, the Rays usually do.
Rasmussen put together another effective five-inning start, Isaac Paredes crushed a pair of home runs against his former team, and the Rays cruised to a 6-1 win over the Tigers in their series finale at Tropicana Field.
The win improved Tampa Bay’s record to 23-15, a season-high-tying eight games over .500 for the second time. It was the Rays’ 14th win in Rasmussen’s 18 starts and their seventh in his eight outings this year, the sort of numbers the 26-year-old right-hander and his teammates appreciate the most.
“I think at the end of the day — all the stats, everything that is compiled right now — pitchers go out there with the mindset [that] when it’s my day to pitch, I want to be a part of us winning,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s doing that.”
Here are three more takeaways from the finale of the Rays’ winning homestand.
The rotation is rolling
Since being no-hit by Reid Detmers in an ugly 12-0 loss in Anaheim on May 10, the Rays have returned to their roots. Which is to say, their pitching has been lights-out.
Look no further than the work that starters Corey Kluber, Shane McClanahan and Rasmussen did in this series, combining to permit three runs on 12 hits while striking out 22 without a walk over 18 innings. Overall, the Rays’ starters have put together a 1.15 ERA – and the whole staff a 1.97 ERA – while Tampa Bay has won five of the past seven games.
“Our pitching is going to be our avenue to winning the most ballgames,” Cash said. “When you see it line up the way it did all three of these games, it keeps you excited.”
Rasmussen did his part, as usual, lowering his ERA to 2.33 with five scoreless innings. He has worked at least five innings while allowing one run or none in five straight starts, tying a Rays record held by Chris Archer (May 17-June 7, 2015) and Scott Kazmir (May 10-31, 2008).
Featuring a mix of fastballs, cutters and sweeping sliders, along with a couple of curveballs, Rasmussen generated a career-high 20 swinging strikes.
“It’s an aggressive lineup, and you know they’re going to swing a lot. So to create swing and misses is just an added bonus,” Rasmussen said. “If we can keep them from getting free [passes], I think I really like our chances.”
Something to smile about
The Rays got to Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez immediately. The lefty recorded his first out on his 18th pitch after allowing three runs on four hits and one walk, a rally capped by Francisco Mejía’s two-run single to left before Rodriguez exited with a left side injury.
But the two biggest swings of the day came from Paredes, who was acquired from Detroit for Austin Meadows just before Opening Day. The 23-year-old infielder crushed two homers, both to left field and both at 104.6 mph according to Statcast, and showed the Tigers what they might be missing.
Afterward, Paredes couldn’t hide his smile or what his first multihomer game meant to him.
“I wanted to give everything I have against them,” Paredes said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “Obviously we were able to win, so thank God for that.”
The Rays have been intrigued for some time by Paredes’ offensive potential, given his advanced approach and ability to put the ball in play. Tampa Bay saw signs of his developing power, too, and he put it on full display in front of his current and former teammates with a combined 815 feet of home runs.
“After the first one, yeah, I heard guys in the [Tigers] bullpen saying some things,” he said through Navarro, grinning. “But after the second one, I don’t think they wanted to say anything.”
Reliever J.P. Feyereisen, acquired with Rasmussen from the Brewers almost exactly a year ago, pitched a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts. It was his 15th consecutive scoreless appearance to begin the year, surpassing Nick Anderson (2020) and Scott Aldred (1999) as the longest scoreless streak (excluding in-season trade acquisitions) to start a season in franchise history.
Feyereisen has allowed four walks and three hits, all singles, while striking out 19 in 18 1/3 innings this season.
“He is uber-competitive and the stuff’s elite, and he’s really showcasing that right now,” Rasmussen said. “I love seeing him have success. He’s a great guy. You can ask anyone in this clubhouse. We all love him. We all root for him. So the start he’s having, it’s incredible.”