ANAHEIM, Calif. — Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon planned to use RHP Roberto Hernandez in relief Tuesday until the eighth inning, when he would turn the game over to RHP Joel Peralta and RHP Fernando Rodney, because those two need some work.
But Hernandez, who entered the 7-1 victory with one out in the fifth inning, breezed through the first five batters he faced, striking out all five. So Maddon let Hernandez go.
“In a situation like that, when the guy is really going well, why force the issue? Let him finish it off,” Maddon said.
Hernandez retired all 11 batters he faced — seven by strikeout — and earned his first big-league save.
He joined Albie Lopez (2000), Joe Kennedy (2003) and Matt Garza (2010) as the only pitchers in team history to pitch a complete game and record a save in the same season.
Hernandez has retired 14 straight batters over two relief appearances, which is somewhat surprising given his performance during most of his 24 starts.
“I didn't know what to expect,” Maddon said. “We felt all along if you put him on the right kind of hitter he's a lot better off, so we matched him up pretty well out of the bullpen. The difference for me is he's been really confident and calm about the whole thing. When he comes in, you give him the ball and he's like, 'Let's go.' It's not really surprising. To dominate like he did is a little bit surprising. But he definitely gives us another tool to use as we go forward.”
And how will they use this tool?
Maddon isn't sure yet. Hernandez could serve as the long man, or he can find himself used in situations that require a ground ball.
“You know he can throw a ground ball,” Maddon said. “I pretty much know he's going to throw a strike, too. When it comes down to the walk, if he walks somebody it's because he's trying to miss or trying to be a little bit too fine with that one hitter.
“But if you put him on the right guys, he's going to throw a strike and there's a good chance the ball's going to be on the ground.”
The Fresh Price of Tampa Bay
LHP David Price makes his 21st start of the season tonight, fewer starts than he would have at this point of the season because he missed at least seven starts because of the left triceps strain that sidelined him for 44 games.
Without those innings on his left arm, the theory is that Price will be fresher this month than past Septembers.
Price isn't so sure that's true. “Not really, honestly. I'm not a guy who gets sore. I'm not a guy who goes through that type of stuff,” he said. “I generally feel very good all year long.
“Day after I pitch, I play long toss and come back to the training room and tell them I can pitch today. That's the way I'm built, that's the way my arm works.”
Price said he doesn't feel any different this year than he has in past Septembers. “I don't feel drained after previous seasons,” he said. “But I think that time off is going to serve a purpose and keep me fresh at the end.”
Win or weep
Maddon treated the team to a “Win or Weep” party at Legends sports bar in Long Beach after Tuesday's game.
He made the plans before the game, so the Rays were going to either celebrate a win, or weep over a loss.
They won, so there was no weeping. Maddon borrowed the tradition from his high school football days, when he was 3-0 at “Win or Weep” dances.
Maddon said about 20 players plus staff attended the party, though no one responded to his late-night tweet of free beer to anyone who showed up wearing Rays gear.
“I put out the tweet at the right time,” Maddon said.
RHP Jesse Crain (right shoulder strain) is still scheduled to throw off the mound this weekend in Seattle. ... Single-A Charlotte swept Fort Myers in the best-of-three series and advanced to the FSL championship series.