Rays Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

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There never should have been extra innings played last night between the Rays and Twins. The Rays were fortunate to have more than two baserunners last night but the Twins’ outfield defense gave the Rays gift after gift after gift last night that the Rays treated like a spoiled five year old that did not get what they wanted as they lost 2-1 in 13 innings.

David Price and Scott Baker threw fifteen innings of stellar baseball. Price went seven innings, striking out seven, permitting seven baserunners, and throwing 83 of his 119 pitches for strikes. Baker had his best outing in a long time going eight innings, permitting just four baserunners, two of which got on via sub-par outfield defense, while striking out seven. Baker has now faced the Rays for sixteen innings this season and has yet to give up a run to them. However, neither pitcher factored into the decision which was unfortunate for Price who was aiming to set the franchise record for wins in a season that is held by four different pitchers, most currently Edwin Jackson.  Both bullpens did their job at different times of the game, unfortunately for the Rays, they could not hold it at the end.

The Rays’ bullpen was asked to pitch six innings of this contest but Randy Choate, Chad Qualls, and Dan Wheeler were used situationally for a combined two innings very effectively. Since the Rays failed to further capitalize in the bottom of the ninth when Evan Longoria got on second base with no outs and got just one run,  Lance Cormier was forced to come in and work for the extra innings. I make no bones about the fact that I do not feel Cormier deserves a spot on this roster given his poor strikeout to walk ratio and extremely low strikeout rate, but for three innings he shoved that in my face. He retired Span, Casilla, and Mauer in order in the tenth and followed that up with striking out Delmon Young, retiring Cuddyer, and striking out Danny Valencia who had killed the Rays in the game, in the 11th. He gave up a base runner in the twelfth but stranded him, and then the thirteenth inning happened.

Lance Cormier is a pitcher that should be used with limited exposure and should never go through a lineup a second time because he does not have the stuff to fool someone twice yet he was asked to work through the Twins lineup again. He walked Casilla on four pitches to start the inning, at least that is what the home plate umpire said happened. Ball four was a strike right over the inner half of the plate but a Derek Jeter-like pirouette helped draw the ball call. Mauer then hit a seeing eye single just under Reid Brignac’s glove who did not knock the ball down allowing Casilla to advance to third. Delmon Young then hit the first pitch he saw into left field to plate the winning run for the visitors. Soriano and Benoit were the only relievers left in the bullpen that is running a man down with injuries to Balfour and Sonnanstine. I can see the argument for leaving Cormier out there if Benoit and Soriano absolutely needed the rest, but why not use Matt Garza who was warming up in the previous inning? If the club doesn’t score after Garza holds the Twins at bay, then Maddon has a big problem as far as who to use in relief the next inning but you deal with that when it happens.  I don’t question many of Maddon’s moves because I trust the process but leaving Cormier out there for a second time through the Twins lineup was a regrettable move.

Offensively, the Rays had eight men on base in thirteen innings and three of those came from misplays by the Twins outfield. Ben Zobrist and Carl Crawford got on base four times in ten tries but neither found home plate. Longoria took a tough 1-6 with two strikeouts against Baker and frankly, none of his bats looked good as he saw 21 pitches in six plate appearances. Matt Joyce showed he was human taking an 0-4 with two strikeouts but Dan Johnson made an impact with an RBI single in the ninth that pushed the game into extra innings. Finally, B.J. Upton took a rough 0-5 that included two of his frustrating strikeouts while looking at pitches that were clearly over the outer half of the plate. Say what you will about his time here but that is the only thing that bothers me about him is his two strike approach. He has had 213 plate appearances this season with two strikes and his slash line is a putrid .130/.239/.216. However, this is a problem for the entire team and not just Upton.

The Rays, as a team, have hit .165/.258/.263 with two strikes this season – 10th best (or fourth worst) in the American League. Compare that to some of their potential playoff rivals and/or playoff contenders this season:

  • Red Sox: .213/.283/.338
  • Yankees: .196/.293/.303
  • Rangers: .202/.266/.297
  • White Sox: .196/.263/.293

Today’s finale should be interesting as the club faces Kevin Slowey – a pitcher they have not seen in two seasons. In fact, the last time the club faced Slowey was on my birthday in 2008 when the club clinched its first ever playoff birth with  a 7-2 win against the Twins on 9/20/08.  A win today would give the Rays a 9-2 record on its first homestand of the second half and make them a stunning 15-3 at home after starting the season 20-19 in their first 39 home games. Additionally, if Wade Davis can earn a win today, all five starting pitchers on this staff will have at least ten wins this season, something the club has done one time previously (2008).

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
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