For seven innings, the Rays were held hostage by the brilliant young lefty Brian Matusz until the Rays unleashed the Kraken of at bats in the 8th to rally for five runs on seven hits off Matusz, Jim Johnson, and Will Ohman. In fact, it wasn’t until Dioner Navarro got that inning started with a single up the middle that the Rays hit something safely out of the infield for just their third hit of the night. Matusz ends up with an unfortunate line of giving up 4 runs in 7.1 innings thanks to yet another late inning bullpen failure by their bullpen but Matusz pitched much better than his line score indicates. He carved up the Rays hitters by locating all of his pitches, changing speeds, and working both sides of the plate. He’s 23 going on 33 with the way he pitches and he is only going to get better from here which is a scary thought.
How bad has that Orioles pen been? They’ve given up 21 runs in the final two innings of games this year, 11 of them in the 8th inning, 7 of them in the 9th inning, and 3 in the 10th inning this season. That’s about the same pace that Randy Choate is giving up runs this season so far as Choate has given up 9 hits to the 16 batters he has faced which included two homers. Luke Scott hit that second homer tonight in the bottom of the 8th to give back the lead the Rays had worked so hard to get in the top of the 8th. This is where not having J.P. Howell really hurts the club as Choate has blown two games late with long balls in the past three days. I was not keen on Maddon turning Posada around with Choate but bringing Choate in tonight to face Scott was absolutely the right move. Scott’s career OPS is 88 points lower against lefties than it is against righties but unfortunately for Rays fans, Choate is the only lefty available to Maddon to bring in and he just is not getting anyone out right now. The problem is, there is no other solution for the club right now unless they bring up Carlos Hernandez to work in relief. Choate is just going through some very unfortunate luck because going into Sunday, he had given up just three homers in 434 plate appearances by left-handed batters.
Speaking of shutting down lefties, Brian Matusz, C.C. Sabathia, and a handful of lefty-relievers have done just that against the Rays. On this young season, the Rays are now just 16 for 87 against left-handed pitching and have managed just three extra base hits while striking out 33 times. That gives the Rays a slash line of .184/.276/.241 with a 38% strikeout rate against lefties. Admittedly, Matusz and Sabathia are two of the better lefties in the league but that is still a very putrid effort against lefties so far this season. In 2008, the Rays no doubt had their issues against left-handed pitching and that perception carried over to the 2009 season although it was inaccurate as the club actually had a better team OPS against lefties than against righties. I know I whined a bit on Twitter tonight about it, but eventually the Rays are going to face a lefty much less talented than Matusz but that is not going to come any time soon as Jon Lester is next up and the Rays will undoubtedly face old nemesis Mark Buehrle and possibly even John Danks when the club travels to Chicago before coming home.
A game that looked like a bleak 3-0 loss turns out to be an 8-6 victory for the good guys as the club scored 8 runs when down to their final five outs and recovered from the blown save from Choate to get the runs back and then some to get the 5th victory on the season. Tomorrow is the first of three day games in the next five days as David Price takes on Brian Bergesen. The Rays have another day game in Boston on Sunday before the unusual 11:05 AM start against the Red Sox on Monday as part of the Boston Marathon/Patriots Day celebration in Boston. Set your DVRs…..
I have two radio appearances tomorrow with two of the site’s three radio partners. I will be on 740 AM in Orlando at 4:30 ET and 1490 AM in the greater Tampa Bay area at 6:22 ET. Click those links to tune in online if you wish to tune in; the second appearance will be mostly Rays talk as it is each and every Wednesday.