So I've been out of touch for a couple days, getting internet hooked up where I'm living, but it seems as though things are still the same as when I lost touch - Rays in first by a couple of games with an offense that can't decide if it's awesome or below average. Wednesday's game was a joy to watch - outside of David Price's Kazmir impression - but last night's was vaguely depressing. I can't get too disappointed since the Rays still won the series and didn't lose any games on the Red Sox or Yankees, but it's tough to watch the Rays' offense waste Wade Davis' best start of the season.
Yup, that's right - Tommy called it. While some people might balk at calling a 3 ER performance his "best of the year", Davis's stuff was the best I've seen it in a long time. After throwing almost exclusively fastballs in his last outing, Davis had all four of his primary pitches working last night, mixing in his slider and curve with his two- and four-seam fastballs. His command was on (he threw over 70% strikes on the night), his curve was sharp, and his slider was nasty on a couple of occasions, making for a lethal combination. Davis generated swinging strikes with all four of those pitches, bringing his total on the evening to 13 (12.5%). Oh, and he struck out seven batters while only letting up one walk. I don't know exactly what caused such a drastic turnaround, but whatever it was, I like it. A lot.
Maybe it was the new goatee?
In the end, though, the Rays' offense just didn't get the job done. You aren't going to win often when you only score two runs and go 0-7 with runners in scoring position - you're just not. The Rays' best chance to tie the score came in the sixth inning when BJ Upton led off the inning with a single and then advanced to second when Sean Rodriguez grounded out weakly. So there we were - one out, runner on second, down by one, and up stepped Evan Longoria. The tie game was in the bag.
Except, well, sometimes life can be cruel. Upton got thrown out attempting to steal third. The replay showed he was safe, but he was called out and in this still replay-less world, thems the breaks. Evan walked and then Aybar grounded out, ending the inning.
Next up, an awkward and abrupt transition. Joe Maddon. I love the guy, I really do. I think he's a brilliant manager and one of the best in the majors, both on and off the field. He puts a ton of time into every one of his decisions, running through the numbers and allowing himself to think outside the box, but sometimes I really wish he'd explain to me what he's thinking. I know he has his reasons for everything, but his moves leave me with so many questions. For instance:
- Sitting Crawford, despite him already having two days off this week. Are we now platooning Crawford against righties only? Is Crawford dealing with a nagging injury that we don't know about? Was there some scouting reason why Maddon didn't think Crawford would perform well against Cecil? Why why why?
- What's behind Maddon's constant line-up shuffles? For the first month or so of the season, Maddon kept the line-up pretty predictable from game to game, but now I have absolutely no idea how Maddon is constructing his line-up. It changes on a day-to-day basis and he does seemingly odd things like bat Sean Rodriguez second and Ben Zobrist fifth.
- Why does he have a fascination with eliminating the DH mid-game? I find this more amusing than anything, especially since the move last night was a result of the Rays' having three catchers on their roster at the moment and not enough middle infielders. If Maddon wanted to pinch hit for Briggy or S-Rod at any point in the game, he had to move Aybar over there and get rid of the DH. I'll be very glad when Barty is back.
And so, I don't have any major complaints against Maddon from last night - line-up disputes are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things - but just questions I'd like answered. I'm even fine with leaving Wade Davis out to start the eighth inning, despite the fact that the decision lead to the Blue Jay scoring their third and winning run. Maddon wanted to match up Randy Choate against Vernon Wells and then use righty specialist Dan Wheeler against Jose Bautista and Alex Gonzalez, but he needed to get past Adam Lind first. Instead of wasting another pitcher on Lind, he just chose to let Davis handle him. Considering how Davis was pitching yesterday, it wasn't a bad call; it just didn't work out in the end.
Oh, and fun fact for the day: the fourth place team in the AL East (Blue Jays) currently has a better record than nine of the remaining ten teams in the American League. If the Blue Jays were in the AL Central, they'd be behind the Twins by 1.5 games. If they were in the AL West, they'd be leading the division by half a game. Holy imbalances, Batman!