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Rays face Angels, shoot for fifth straight win

Aug 23, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  Tampa Bay Rays catcher Francisco Mejia (21) congratulates catcher Christian Bethancourt (14) after pitching the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays and visiting Los Angeles Angels will continue their four-game series Wednesday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., with the Rays looking to rely upon their not-so-secret weapon to triumph again.

The Rays are riding a four-game winning streak.

Rays manager Kevin Cash uses his bullpen more than any other manager in the majors — Rays relievers have thrown 511 2/3 innings this season.

And with good reason. The Rays’ bullpen began the day Tuesday tied for second in the American League in both wins (33) and saves (36) and was third in strikeouts (481).

And the Rays have done it with a collection of pitchers who weren’t necessarily expected to do big things — left-hander Jalen Beeks missed all of 2021 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Shawn Armstrong had a 6.31 ERA last season, and Jason Adam signed a split major league/minor league contract at the beginning of the season.

But all three have been vital to the club’s success. Adam has a 1.07 ERA and is tied for the club lead in saves. He has just seven, as 10 different pitchers have recorded at least one save.

“It’s so fun being a part of a bullpen where you know whoever’s going in there, they’re going to do their job,” Adam said. “It doesn’t matter when, doesn’t matter what. … Get your outs.”

The success the Rays relievers are having has been a process. An example is Beeks, who struck out Shohei Ohtani on Monday with two on and two out in the sixth inning of a one-run game.

Earlier this season, Beeks threw a fastball to Mike Trout and then a slider to Ohtani, and both hit Beeks’ pitches for home runs. So he simplified his approach when facing Ohtani this time.

“Stick to my strengths, not try to trick him,” Beeks said. “Just stick to what I do best.”

Left-hander Shane McClanahan (11-5, 2.29 ERA) will make his 24th start of the season Wednesday for the Rays. If there is any starter who can give the bullpen a bit of a break if needed, it’s McClanahan, who has pitched at least six innings in 18 of his 23 starts.

He is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three career starts against the Angels. He earned a no-decision May 11 this season but threw seven scoreless innings while allowing just three hits and striking out 11 in a 4-2 win.

Right-hander Mike Mayers (1-0, 5.22) will serve as the Angels’ opener on Wednesday.

Trout is expected to be in the lineup for the Angels for the sixth consecutive day (five as the center fielder, one as the DH) since missing 30 games because of a back injury. He went 1-for-3 with a home run on Tuesday and is 5-for-18 with the one homer, two RBIs, one walk and four strikeouts in the five games since returning.

“I’m just getting back into the swing of things,” said Trout, whose homer Tuesday was his 1,500th career hit. “My body feels good. Being off for a month, sometimes the timing is off. But it’s starting to come back. I’m feeling good.”

Trout is expected to get the day off on Thursday.

–Field Level Media