OK, so that pending doom for Jeff Niemann’s statistical line waits another night as the Rays net their fourth comeback win on this road trip winning 3-2. Starting off this road trip 4-1 is huge given how poorly the Rays played when behind late in games in the first half. Before this road trip, the Rays were 2-33 when trailing at the start of the 7th inning and until tonight, they were 0-38 when trailing at the start of the 9th inning. Bobby Jenks had to work very hard to slam the door last night and he was not himself tonight as his location was all over the place in loading up the bases via two base hits, a hit batter, and walking in the game-tying run before giving up the lead with a sac-fly to Pena.
Before the rally in the 9th inning, the Rays were held at bay with a brilliant performance from Clayton Richard who scattered four hits and two walks in eight innings. Last night, we discussed how infrequently the Rays ran against left-handed starters and tonight was no different as the only stolen base on the night came in the 9th inning by Carl Crawford. With the offense taking so long to get going, it was up to the big Texan to keep the Rays in the game and Niemann did a marvelous job of that. In eight innings, he allowed eight hits, no walks, struck out seven, and pounded the strikezone with 72 strikes compared to only 28 walks. This is now the 10th straight start that Niemann has kept the ball in the park and none of his last 80 flyballs allowed have left the yard – an amazing stretch of HR/FB suppression that has to end at some point. Consider the fact that Niemann gave up eight homers in his first 93 flyballs and now has gone 80 straight without doing so without noticeably changing his GB/FB results. Sure, his curveball is getting more usage but when the regression strikes, it will strike hard. With the Red Sox and Yankees looming on the schedule, the timing could not be worse.
The Rays catch a break somewhat tomorrow with John Danks getting scratched. The White Sox will send 26 year old rookie Carlos Torres to the mound who has been rather dominant in AAA Charlotte. The good news is that he is a right-handed pitcher so the Rays tracks shoes should be on with the regular lineup in there once again for the third game of a 4-game series.
Very late word from @tborays – star prospect Jeremy Hellickson has been promoted to AAA Durham and will start on Friday night.
Props to @mlbcoz for sneaking in the Dude reference with JP Howell on the MLB.com highlights linked at the top of the article. For those that don’t, know, JP Howell’s nickname is “Dude” so when he saves a game,