ST. PETERSBURG — Shawn Armstrong doesn’t really care about the label. Starter, reliever or opener, the Rays right-hander just goes out to the mound and shuts down opposing hitters. Thursday, he made his fifth start as an opener for the Rays and threw two scoreless innings in a 5-3 win over the Rockies.
“I just treat it as the same thing as when I am coming out of the bullpen,” Armstrong said. “Just try and keep the same routine, same schedule, and just go out there and go as far as (manager Kevin) Cash will let me kind of go and pass the ball to the next person.
“So, I mean, just just trying to keep the same mentality as it is whenever I come out of the bullpen.”
Armstrong has not allowed a run in his five starts as an opener this season. In 25 appearances overall, the 32-year-old has allowed just four runs and struck out 43 while walking seven over 38 innings. His 30.1 strikeout percentage is his highest since breaking into the big leagues in 2015.
“I wouldn’t say this is the best I’ve felt,” Armstrong said, “but I think it’s the most consistent delivery-wise and arsenal-wise I’ve been in my whole career.”
Armstrong’s return from the injured list in early June has helped to solidify the bullpen, Cash said.
“You look at our bullpen since when he came back, and our bullpen has really taken off,” he said. “It’s nice, and it’s carried over in the opening role and it’s also carried over into the role when you know he’s pitching deeper into ballgames.”
Armstrong’s outing on Thursday highlighted a strong day for the Rays’ pen. Jason Adam pitched two scoreless innings, and Jake Diekman and Pete Fairbanks each threw a scoreless frame. The Rockies scored all three of their runs off Erasmo Ramirez.
“I think everybody’s played really well, and we want to continue that,” said Adam, who picked up his fourth win. “Baseball can humble you real quick. So, we’re going to stay focused on the next game.”
They’re still the Yankees
The Yankees may be limping into Tropicana Field this weekend, but that doesn’t mean the Rays can afford to take the last-place team in the American League East for granted.
“It doesn’t matter what their record is, that lineup can be dangerous,” said pitcher Zack Littell, who will start Sunday for the Rays. “I mean, I saw (Aaron Judge) last night hit three home runs. You have to respect him when he’s in the lineup.”
The Yankees, visiting for the first time since May, return with a 61-66 record. New York will open the series Friday night with Gerrit Cole, the leading candidate for the American League Cy Young award, on the mound.
Regardless of their record or their place in the standings, the Yankees remain a division rival and bring fans to the Trop, which had fewer than 13,000 for the three games against the Rockies.
“Hopefully you get some good crowds, they get loud and support us,” Cash said. “And we can find ways to win some games.”
On the move
Before Thursday’s series finale against the Rockies, the Rays recalled infielder Vidal Brujan and right-handed pitcher Trevor Kelley. They sent down left-handed reliever Jacob Lopez, who threw three scoreless innings Wednesday, and third base prospect Curtis Mead.
Brujan gives the Rays defensive versatility and a backup shortstop. Mead, a top prospect who was brought up to face left-handed pitchers, goes back to Triple-A, where he will play every day. Kelley gives Tampa Bay insurance in the bullpen.
Brujan has played 28 games with the Rays this season, hitting .193 with two doubles and five RBIs in 57 at-bats. He has struck out 16 times. Kelley had a 4.05 ERA in nine appearances with Tampa Bay this year. He struck out eight batters and walked four over 13-1/3 innings.
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Source: Yahoo Sports