Yes, Bob Davidson sucked last night, but he sucked for both teams. What Davidson did to Crawford in the 5th had no bearing on the game as that was already decided in the third inning when Davidson failed to ring up Drew on a third strike that helped lead to the only runs of the game. Shields left his next pitch up that Drew deposited into right field and then walked Youkilis and David Ortiz continued his May hot streak and cleaned up the mess that Shields left on the basepaths. Despite the fact that we saw Davidson screw up call after call for both teams, we only saw one team lose their cool and it wasn’t the team that has seen three of its key players on the disabled list for lengthy amount of times this year nor was it the team whose pitching staff has been in disarray for most of the season. No, it was the team with the best record in baseball with the 5.5 game lead in the toughest division.
I don’t care how poorly umpires are handling a game, there is no excuse for any player to lose their cool over the first pitch of an at bat because that at bat is not finished. Additionally, given the fact arguing balls and strikes results in an automatic ejection, why bother? Crawford could have made a difference in that at bat or the other at bat that Reid Brignac took in his place later in that contest. It was a shame that the game had to be overshadowed by these events because it was an otherwise outstanding game pitched by two very good pitchers. Shields and Lester entered the contest second and third in the league in strikeouts and did more of the same in this contest bad strike zone aside. Shields retired 18 straight before being lifted from the game and take away six pitches that he threw in between the blown strike three call and the Ortiz double and Shields was rather outstanding. Unfortunately, Shields has had the worst run support this season for the entire staff – a trend that carried over from last season and extended into last night. The Rays had a 2.71 team ERA in the month of May heading into last night and that number went down last night despite the loss but the reason the Rays have been unable to fully capitalize on the superior pitching is the inconsistency of the offense. The Rays are only hitting .254 with runners in scoring position in May which has been a leading cause of some of these 2-0 and 2-1 losses of late. When the Rays are scoring less than four runs in a contest, they are 5-11 on the season. Conversely, they are 27-3 when scoring four runs or more on the season.
The club has done a few things to kick start the offense. Pat Burrell’s dead weight was jettisoned, Ben Zobrist has been tried out in the leadoff spot, and Carlos Pena as well as B.J. Upton’s struggling bats have been moved down the lineup but nothing has worked to develop consistency within the offense. I believe that is due to the fact that each move is dependent on the other. Zobrist can only hit lead-off if someone can effectively hit behind Longoria. Moving Upton and Pena down requires a rookie like John Jaso or part-time DH Willy Aybar to provide production in the middle part of the lineup. An offense can handle one or two struggling bats over a period of time but the Rays offense is having to absorb Upton, Pena, Bartlett, and Navarro at different times in lineups, especially when one of those hitters is hitting lead-off.
As hot as the month of April was for the Rays offense, the month of May has been a very inconsistent one at best. Luckily, neither Crawford or Maddon are being suspended for last night’s events which tells me that Major League Baseball knows just how awful Bob Davidson. Both Maddon and Crawford made accidental contact with Davidson in the arguments and both were vocal in their complaints after the game and yet neither are going to see a suspension which is rather surprising given past incidents. I am hoping that this is an isolated incident of frustration from the team because it is going to be a long summer in the spotlight in the toughest division in baseball and umpires as well as the MLB front office is not going to be so forgiving in the future and I maintain this division will come down to the final weekend which makes every game count. Clearly, as the Red Sox appear to be leaving town with a sweep in their back pocket, this horse race is still tight as clubs make the turn into the summer.