As the Tampa Bay Rays cruised to 50 wins before the upcoming All-Star break, they have received significant recent contributions from two players who weren’t even on the roster at the start of July.
Shortstop Yu Chang and catcher Christian Bethancourt played key roles in Tampa Bay’s 5-4 victory against the Baltimore Orioles at St. Petersburg, Fla.
The teams will meet again Saturday in the second game of a three-game series leading into the All-Star break.
Tampa Bay’s regular shortstop, Wander Franco, is out with due to a wrist injury and is expected to be sidelined until late August or early September. Catcher Mike Zunino is due to miss a large chunk of the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury.
Chang is likely to share playing time with Taylor Walls in the immediate future. He also will be used at second base. Bethancourt will get some time behind the plate because Francisco Mejia can’t catch every game while Zunino is out.
“I hope they look at it as a welcoming environment and they can play big roles for us,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said.
Chang, who is on his third major league team of the season, has taken on a sizable role since the Rays claimed him off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 5.
He had a pair of RBI doubles in four at-bats in the series opener against the Orioles. Since joining the Rays, he has six hits in 16 at-bats (.375).
“You’re seeing a lot of intensity out of (Chang) right now,” Cash said. “He’s getting out in front of pitches. You don’t want to be behind when it’s 95 miles per hour. He’s getting his hands out front and driving some balls.”
Bethancourt, who was acquired in a July 9 trade with the Oakland Athletics, has been in the major leagues since 2013 but has never appeared in more than 73 games in a season. He made his impact felt Friday as a pinch hitter when he belted a two-run home run in a four-run sixth inning.
Tampa Bay’s Friday victory ended the Orioles’ winning streak at 10 games. The streak was the longest for Baltimore since a 13-game run in 1999.
“The feeling of losing after winning 10 straight is not the feeling we want,” said Tyler Wells, who went 5 2/3 innings as Baltimore’s starter Friday. “It sucks. It sucks a lot. But I think the guys are going to come back stronger.”
Baltimore will attempt to bounce back on Saturday behind Dean Kremer (3-1, 2.15 ERA). In three career starts against the Rays, the right-hander is 0-1 with a 3.21 ERA.
In his lone outing against the Rays this season, Kremer went six scoreless innings in a no-decision on June 17 in Baltimore.
Ryan Yarbrough (0-4, 5.82 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Durham to start for the Rays on Saturday. The left-hander is 5-2 with a 3.92 ERA for in 14 career appearances (seven starts) against Baltimore.
He pitched in relief at Baltimore on May 20, and he gave up two runs (one earned) in four innings.
Orioles third baseman Ramon Urias, who hit two home runs on Friday, said postgame, “Let’s start another (winning streak) tomorrow.”
–Field Level Media