ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays are using pitchers in unconventional ways, but it continues to spark their success, and they'll try to find enough live arms to continue that Tuesday in another "bullpen day" against the Detroit Tigers.
Tampa Bay (46-44) is 12-4 in its last 16 games and has won three straight, few stranger than Monday's 10-9 win, which saw the Rays use nine pitchers and win despite blowing leads in the seventh and eighth innings.
Tuesday's starter, RHP Ryne Stanek, actually pitched Monday night, albeit a two-batter, nine-pitch cameo that shouldn't keep him from his usual two innings as "opener" in Kevin Cash's nontraditional but winning formula of late.
Stanek (1-2, 2.12 ERA) gave up a run in relief Monday, but he hasn't allowed a run in his last eight starts, going back more than a month. He has thrown just 11 2/3 innings in his unique role but has allowed only five hits in those outings.
The Rays used nine pitchers Monday, but of the eight relievers, only rookie Hunter Wood threw so many pitches he wouldn't be available again Tuesday. The only bullpen arm that wasn't used was Ryan Yarbrough, who should get a long outing in relief of Stanek on Tuesday.
"We should be fine," Cash said of his bullpen availability. "With the exception of Wood, everybody is available to pitch. We have (Matt) Andriese who can pitch, we have Yarbs that can provide some length so we should be fine for tomorrow."
The Tigers (40-53) will counter with RHP Matthew Boyd, who has struggled of late, lasting only four innings Friday while giving up six earned runs on seven hits against the Rangers. In his last four starts, he's given up 20 earned runs in 17 innings, ballooning his season ERA from 3.23 to 4.58.
Boyd pitched well against the Rays earlier this season, going six innings and holding Tampa Bay to one run on seven hits in a 2-1 win on May 1. The Tigers aren't quite as depleted in their bullpen, but they used six pitches on Monday, so the longer Boyd can last, the better for Detroit.
"Both teams were throwing everything they had out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said after Monday's loss. "We had a couple of guys left, and I don't know how many they had left. It got down to that. It was a wild ballgame. They got us in the end."
The Rays haven't had to win many games with their bats, but they've scored nine and 10 runs in back-to-back games, taking some pressure off a staff that had five shutouts in a span of 14 games.
"Pitching staff has been carrying us. ... Credit to everyone, the offense and the pitchers to keep it close there at the end," said Daniel Robertson, who played in the outfield and infield and won the game in the 10th with a walk-off single, his third hit of the night. "It shows that our offense is there."