Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon showed faith in struggling LHP Jake McGee a few weeks ago when he brought him in to face the Twins' Justin Morneau with the bases loaded. McGee struck out Morneau and has been on a roll since.
In Thursday's 4-3 win against the Mariners, McGee retired all seven batters he faced, needing only 29 pitches, and helped pick up a bullpen that was without RHP Joel Peralta, who was given the day off.
"Ever since the Morneau strikeout I've been pitching really well and going out from the first pitch and just letting it go and trying to hit the corners," McGee said.
Maddon said McGee had his best game of the season Thursday with his velocity and location, touching 97 mph with his fastball.
"He only went that long because he threw 29 pitches and recorded seven outs," Maddon said. "It was a perfect slot for him with all the lefties they had coming up."
The Mariners loaded the lineup with seven lefties and two switch-hitters against RHP Jeff Niemann. McGee faced just one right-hander, switch-hitter Chone Figgins, and struck him out.
Just as he said about Peralta, who got five outs Wednesday, Maddon said McGee getting seven outs was the key to Thursday's win.
In the past 11 games, the Rays' bullpen is 2-0 with six saves and a 1.32 ERA.
"It's another guy each night that's been stepping up and pitching well out of the bullpen," McGee said. "When you see someone do well, you want to do well, too."
Niemann, Rhymes united again
Niemann and 2B Will Rhymes played their first official game together since they were teammates in 2001 at Houston's Lamar High.
Niemann earned his second win of the season, and Rhymes sparked the second-inning rally with an infield single.
"That's pretty special, man," Rhymes said. "I was standing out there (Thursday) thinking about that. We started playing together when we were like 13. We were on all the same teams, Pony League and all-star teams and all through high school and stuff. That was awhile ago now, and it's pretty special to stand out there behind him and try to make plays for him."
A change for Price
LHP David Price tries for his fifth win of the season tonight in the opener of a three-game series with the A's, and he will do it with the formula that served him well during his past two starts — throwing more change-ups.
"It's a lot easier for me when I'm out there if I can throw a 2-1 change-up. It doesn't mean it has to be that good. If it's near the strike zone, it's effective. If they're sitting and waiting on 93, 94 (mph fastball) and get 83, 84 it has a tendency to work," Price said. "It's been working for us, and we're going to keep throwing different looks in different counts and keep hitters on their toes."
Price made the change during his complete-game shutout against the Angels when he noticed how well he threw his change-up during the first inning.
Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer, who will undergo dialysis, was released Thursday from the hospital. … Niemann is 5-0 in eight career starts against the Mariners. He failed to pitch six innings for the fifth time this year but has yet to allow more than three runs in any of his starts. … Former Rays C John Jaso made his first start behind the plate for Seattle and had two doubles.