Alexi Ogando, bullpen close door on Rays

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike Adams watched from his chair in the bullpen as Alexi Ogando carved up the top of the Tampa Bay Rays lineup in the seventh inning to preserve a 6-5 lead.

That part of the order (the top four hitters) had crushed pitches from Derek Holland to the tune of 6-for-11 with five runs scored and five RBIs, including two triples and a homer. But Ogando wasn't rattled. He fired hard fastballs down in the zone and got two strikeouts and a pop-up from Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist, respectively. His final pitches to all three batters were 97, 99 and 98 mph.

Adams was impressed and then warmed up himself. He went out there and struck out two of the three batters he faced, including Evan Longoria to lead off the eighth. Closer Joe Nathan then came in and struck out two of his three batters (at the bottom of the order), earning his 24th straight save and 26th of the season. So the three bullpen pitchers went through the Rays' order for nine straight outs, six of them strikeouts. It was quite impressive.

After the game, Adams was still thinking about how well Ogando pitched.

"I told him, 'Just keep that fastball down like that and no one can hit you,'" Adams said. "He pitched really well. He gets into trouble when the ball gets up. But if he keeps it down, he's great."

Shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has a locker near Ogando's, was impressed too. And he was quick to note that while Ogando doesn't do anything fancy, if his slider has good movement where it starts in the zone and then bends, that fastball becomes an even bigger weapon.

"It's a pretty good bullpen, isn't it?" Andrus said. "When they're on, they're on. We've got great arms out there. Alexi was on it tonight. Everyone knows what he's going to throw. He can get you out of balance with that breaking pitch, the slider, and you can see the guys know he's going to throw the fastball, but they've got to be aware of the slider. It's pretty tough to hit that 98-mph fastball."