Recognition doesn’t come easy for non-closing relievers.
From Opening Day until now, no aspect of the 2017 Rays has received more criticism than their beleaguered bullpen. The collective earned run average has been north of 4.00 all season and the bullpen’s current 4.30 mark ranks ninth in the American League.
Hunter, however, has done nothing but help keep that number from suffering further inflation. The 31-year-old is enjoying one of the best seasons of his 10-year, five-franchise career.
Hunter entered Thursday night’s opener with the Cleveland Indians carrying a 1.64 ERA and 0.99 walks plus hits per inning pitched percentage. He made his 42nd appearance of the season in the seventh with Austin Jackson standing on third base with only one out and responded by popping up new Indians outfielder Jay Bruce to short and fanning catcher Yan Gomes to end the threat. Hunter then remained in the game and worked a perfect 1-2-3 eighth, striking out two more Indians.
The 42 appearances are second on the team to the 48 worked by closer Alex Colome and Hunter lowered his ERA to 1.57, ranking as the fourth lowest among all American League relievers who have worked at least 20 innings.