Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash keeps getting the most from his pitching staff.
Cash moved reliever Adam Kolarek from the mound to first base and back to the mound in a piece of matchup strategy Sunday, and the Rays wound up with a 3-0 win over the San Francisco Giants.
Yandy Diaz homered on the second pitch of the game and Yonny Chirinos (2-0) threw five scoreless innings. The Rays have opened the season with three straight series wins for the first time in franchise history.
Cash kept things in constant motion throughout the game, using four outfielders at times and constantly shifting his infielders. But his boldest move came in the seventh.
Kolarek pitched a perfect sixth inning to protect a 2-0 lead. The left-hander gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Yangervis Solarte, then shifted over to play first base — it was his first time in the majors at a position other than pitcher, and allowed the Rays to bring in right-hander reliever Chaz Roe.
Roe struck out righty-hitting Evan Longoria and exited. Kolarek returned to the mound, struck out lefty-swinging Brandon Belt, gave up another single and was replaced for good by Diego Castillo.
“The way their lineup was today, with Longo sitting in the middle of a bunch of tough lefty hitters, the thought kind of came into my mind when (Kolarek) got into the game knowing that our pitching was a little tight,” Cash said. “Kolarek might have been stunned, but I’m glad it worked out. I’m really happy that Longo decided not to hit a line drive or ground ball over there.”
Cash said he had made such switches twice last summer, once moving a pitcher to third base for an out and other time to first base.
Kolarek, who said he sometimes played first base while pitching at the University of Maryland, said he uses an extra-large glove, so did not switch when he went to first base.
“When Cash extended his hand for the ball, I handed it to him and started walking toward the dugout. He said, ‘Hold up, go play first,’” Kolarek said. “You have to be ready for anything around here. It’s probably the coolest thing that’s happened to me on a major league field.”
Cash used relief pitchers as starters for an inning or two last year with great success.
Chirinos made his second strong appearance this season, allowing two hits and a walk and striking out five. On March 31 versus Houston, he gave up one run on two hits in seven innings.
Drew Pomeranz (0-1) lasted four innings, permitting two runs on six hits, walking three and striking out five. But the Giants provided no offensive support, managing five hits, all singles.
“You’ve got to find a find to get some runs,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We need to get some early runs, that’s been one of our issues, to take some pressure off our pitchers.”
The Rays’ other runs came on Christian Arroyo’s RBI single in the fourth and when Kevin Kiermaier tripled in the eighth and scored on a balk.
Yandy Diaz and manager Kevin Cash break down the shutout victory over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday:
Rays: Cash said INF Joey Wendle, who has been on the 10-day disabled list since April 1, won’t be ready to play for a few days even after he’s eligible to come off the DL on April 11.
Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on April 14 after having Tommy John surgery last year. … C Buster Posey got a rest day on Sunday.
Rays: LHP Blake Snell (1-1, 3.46) takes the mound as the Rays continue their nine-game road trip at the Chicago White Sox.
Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 1.38) pitches against San Diego as San Francisco plays the fourth game of its 10-game homestand. Bumgarner is 1-5 in his last eight starts against the Padres.
With his first-inning single, Tommy Pham has now reached base in 42 straight games, extending the longest streak in Tampa Bay history. It is the longest streak in the majors since Houston’s Alex Bregman had a similar 42-game streak last year.
Rays Reliever Kolarek Plays 1B in 3-0 Win over Giants