Every time the Rays visit a National League park I end up coming away with the same conclusion; Man, am I happy the Rays play in the American League. Watching NL style baseball for 140-odd games a year would make me physically angry. I'm not saying I'd go around Hulk-smashing everything/everyone in sight, but it probably wouldn't end well for me. A man can only take watching the pitcher hit so many times. Call me elitist. Tell me a long diatribe about the purity of the game. I don't care. You can't tell me that pulling a double switch that results in one of your better players coming out of the game is enjoyable or makes the game better in any way, shape, or form (insert your joke here). This may sound crazy, but I'd prefer the Rays to stay in the stacked AL East than have them play anywhere in the National League. Ok, rant over. On to the actual game itself...
In his last start, Wade Davis had arguably his best outing of the season in a loss against Toronto. He didn't match that effort tonight, but he was certainly improved over some of his previous starts. Davis ended up working only five innings, even though he was at 81 pitches and had gotten through the 5th on just five pitches. With the Rays trailing by three at the time he was lifted for a pinch hitter. Giving up three runs in five innings doesn't look good in the box score, but watching the play on the field lended a better aesthetic outcome. The Braves scored all three of Davis' runs in the third inning. After Tommy Hanson went down swinging, Martin Prado and Jason Heyward each singled on weakly hit ground balls that just happened to find holes. That's more bad luck than anything. Chipper Jones went down on strikes, and Davis threw a mistake 3-0 fastball to Brian McCann who ripped it into right field for a double, scoring Prado. This brought the hot hitting Troy Glaus to the plate. Glaus would waste no time in hitting another ground ball, this time a dribbler up the middle which Jason Bartlett dove after unsuccessfully, which plated Heyward and McCann. What Bartlett was even doing in the game is anyone's guess. I don't want to harp on it too much in this space, but Bartlett should not have started the game against a right handed pitcher when Reid Brignac, a superior player, is sitting on the bench. There's little doubt in my mind that Brignac reaches the Glaus ground ball and fields it cleaning, thus ending the inning only down 1-0.
The next two innings would be smoother for Davis. On the night, the rookie right-hander would strike out five while not walking a single person. In three June starts Davis has a 15:1 K/BB ratio. That's an impressive improvement from his previous two months. The real star of the night Braves' starter Tommy Hanson, who finished with a line of 7IP, 3H, 0ER, 1BB, 6K. Tampa Bay batters were left looking foolish, especially when attempting to hit Hanson's slider. He threw the pitch 24 times for 14 strikes, 7 swinging (29.17%). Kudos to him.
Some other thoughts:
- I can't stand the human element. Hank Blalock clearly scored on a wild pitch in the 6th inning, yet was called out by the home plate umpire. Replays showed that from Blalock's foot to his knee had crossed the plate before Hanson applied the tag. That bad call cost the Rays a run and an out at a critical time in the game.
- The Rays' pen has been stretched pretty thin the past two nights with David Price and Davis each going just five innings. This causes situations where Dan Wheeler has to face a left handed bat, and nobody wants that. Well, maybe Eric Hinske.
- It's encouraging to read Joe Maddon say that Matt Joyce is "pounding on the door pretty loudly." Joyce himself even said that he's "100 percent convinced" that he's ready. Hopefully a move will be made relitvely soon.
- Sean Rodriguez had his 15 game hitting streak brought to an end with an 0-4 night.