Last night’s game was pretty much the Rays season in a microcosm. They have their staff “ace” on the mound against a rookie pitcher that has been absolutely pounded by right-handed pitching all year. Yet, after the 6th inning, it was 5-1 Baltimore thanks to some shaky defense by Longoria, a poor final batter for Shields, and an even worse effort by Lance Cormier. It is never a good thing when you score seven runs against a team 26 games under .500 and you lose. Cormier throwing Brian Roberts a 3-2 fastball with the bags juiced was brutal because Cormier does not have the type of fastball that can be thrown belt-high with a full count. Maddon having Russ Springer and his 60% flyball rate come into face Nolan Reimold with two men on was also a risky move that blew up in the team’s face when Springer did his best Cormier impression and left a flat 93mph heater right out over the plate for Reimold to destroy.
With the loss last night, the Rays are now a collective 12-16 against three of the worst teams in the American League in Baltimore, Oakland, and Cleveland but are 13-10 against Boston and New York. If that is not playing down to the level of your competition, I do not know what is. As I said in my last post, at some point we have to stop making excuses for the Rays and that point is now with Texas coming to town. The Rangers currently are one game off the wild-card pace trailing Boston and the Rays are three back of the Rangers. A sweep in this series would go a very long way and the Yankees taking care of Boston would make a sweep in this series even more impactful. I know it is painful to cheer for the Yankees, but hold your nose and do it because the Rays need the Yankees help.
The pitching matchups for this series are:
Tonight: Dustin Nippert vs Scott Kazmir
Saturday: Tommy Hunter vs Matt Garza
Sunday: Scott Feldman vs David Price
You might recall those are the same three pitchers we had go in the series in Arlington in July in which the Rays were swept out of town culminating with David Price’s worst outing of the season. Since the all-star break, Texas is 8th in the American League in hitting with their slash stats at .274/.334/.468. However, they are 13th on the season hitting on the road at .243/.298/.420. Kazmir has done very well against Texas in his career as the current Rangers are 19 for 110 against him with 32 strikeouts and only two homers which breaks out to a .173/.254/.264 line. The Rangers counter with former Diamondbacks top prospect Dustin Nippert who has been very effective for the Rangers at 4-1 with a 3.52 ERA. He does not get deep into games but is coming off a win against the Red Sox where he went six effective innings.
This is the first of twelve games the Rays have against the Rangers and Red Sox from here on out. If they want to convince everyone they are a contender, they must take this series. Crap or get off the pot. Quit teasing us with playoff potential only to revert back to the play we saw in 2007 when the bullpen and defense would blow games late. If they do not win this series, the post-season plans are toast – book it, done. More importantly, I will have to listen to an earful of crap from my cousin Nick who is a diehard Rangers fan just as I did when the Rangers swept the Rays in July and I do not want to deal with that again any time soon. The Rays are either contenders and pretenders and we’ll know by the end of this weekend which role they want to play for the rest of the season.