With a 5-3 lead in the fourth inning Friday night at Busch Stadium, Highland native Jake Odorizzi was in position to earn another win against the St. Louis Cardinals.
But a lofty pitch count and a long home run by Kolten Wong prompted Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash to replace Odorizzi after 3 2/3 innings. The Rays went on to win 7-3 and drop the Cardinals back to the .500 mark at 64-64.
“We won. That’s what really matters,” Odorizzi said. “That’s always cool, especially here (at Busch Stadium).”
Odorizzi, a 2008 graduate of Highland and the former first-round draft choice of the Milwaukee Brewers, helped himself at the plate with a sacrifice bunt in the second and an RBI infield single in the Rays’ four-run third that put them ahead 4-1.
It was Odorizzi’s second career hit in 15 at-bats. In two career starts at Busch Stadium, Odorizzi has recorded two sacrifices, a walk and a single.
“I like hitting here. It’s fun. It’s a good place,” Odorizzi said. “It’s home and it’s kind to me. That’s kind of the big highlight for me of the day.
“It’s always a treat for me to come back here and be able to pitch. Getting a hit on top of it was big icing on the cake from that standpoint. I wish I would have been able to go deeper in the game today and save the bullpen, even though they did a phenomenal job coming in.”
Odorizzi (6-7, 4.82 ERA) issued three walks in the third when the Cardinals got within 4-2 on Yadier Molina’s sacrifice fly. The free passes took their toll.
“Absolutely,” said Odorizzi, who has 49 walks in 112 innings. “That’s kind of what’s hurt me all year. After that inning where (my) hit happened, I was out there and was kind of overexcited. I didn’t have control. I was just trying to get a feel for it. I was still on a high from that. It’s no excuse whatsoever. I was still amped up and I couldn’t really find the release point. I guess it was a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.”
Steven Souza, who clubbed a 434-foot homer in the third against Michael Wacha (9-7), said he could understand Odorizzi’s excitement over contributing a key hit.
“I’ve been to my hometown in Seattle and hit a homer there, and it just gets overwhelming for you. I know exactly what he’s going through,” Souza said. “We know who Jake is. We know the type of pitcher he is. This is no indication of who he is at all. The next start, whenever it comes, he’s going to be just fine.”
After Corey Dickerson’s RBI double in the fourth enabled Tampa Bay to reclaim its three-run lead at 5-2, Wong lined a 421-foot homer into the Cardinals’ bullpen in right. The blow came on a 92-mph fastball from Odorizzi, who exited after striking out the next batter, Randal Grichuk.
“I elevated it,” Odorizzi said of his pitch to Wong. “It was more over the middle of the plate than the outer third of the plate. Just bad execution, right idea. I left it too much over the middle of the plate and I know he’s really hot right now.”
Odorizzi finished with 74 pitches, 45 for strikes. He had four strikeouts.
“As far as ‘Odo’ goes, I thought he showed some signs of being pretty good, but the walks ... It’s tough to avoid that and not being reactive to getting somebody else up,” Cash said. “We got him a lead, but I felt it was best to keep it that way.”
Odorizzi spotted the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the first on Dexter Fowler’s sacrifice fly, an inning that was fueled by Stephen Piscotty’s single that caromed off third base and eluded Evan Longoria.
Odorizzi had as many as 300 family members and friends in the stands, including, of course, parents Mike and Juli, wife Carissa and 18-month old son Rhett.
“It’s nerve-racking just when he comes to St. Louis,” Mike Odorizzi said. “We visited him in Baltimore, and it was a different setting and it was very calm. But St. Louis is always nerve-racking just because it’s home. I’ve rooted for the Cardinals my entire life, so that’s the tough thing for me – to be coming here in a different color.”
Jake Odorizzi’s only previous start against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium was July 22, 2014, a 7-2 victory for Tampa Bay. Odorizzi allowed two runs (earned) on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts, in posting the win.
“The last time we were here, it was a lot more frustrating because it was the first time,” Mike Odorizzi said. “This time around, it’s better. Now we’ve got a grandson that’s over here somewhere that we’re waiting to see. And we’re waiting to see Carissa. We’re looking forward to this year a lot more than 2014.”
Juli Odorizzi, despite the 2014 experience, was uneasy.
“I’m still nervous at every game. It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Watching him on TV, I’m still nervous. That’s just the way it is. I still like to pace. When he doesn’t do well, it hurts our heart.”
David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm