I'm not sure what was worse to watch-seeing the Rays fail to hit or watching the Orioles hit a whole bunch. I know the Rays are scuffling a bit around now, but these are the games you are suppose to use to right the ship and get back into the win column. Sadly that didn't happen tonight. The Rays were only able to muster 3 hits and barely got those, including the only XBH as a bloop triple. They did hit some line drives that didn't amount to much, but they too often popped up weakly. Shields also struggled in the first inning to do much and without some nifty defense, could've really had an ugly night. But the offense was far worse, so we'll start with the pitching.
August 1-remember that date? It seems like it was forever ago, but it was really just 12 days ago. That was the day Shields started against the Yankees and had the a line of 7.1 IP 4H 0R 1BB 11K. Seems like forever ago that he dominated a team like that? Especially after his last 2 starts. Tonight was just a meek 5IP 10H 4R(4ER) 3BB 2K and rarely looked dominant at any point during the game.
Doesn't even look like the same pitcher does it? In some respects, outside of the name on the jersey, they're basically different. Against the Yankees, he had a specific game plan and stuck to it, tonight-Shields was all over the place. He only had 4 SwStr out of 64 total strikes for 6.25% . One thing we saw also saw in the start against New York was heavy use of the off-speed pitches to go with a low amount of carefully spread out fastballs. Tonight was the opposite, especially early on-it was heavy with the fastball.
Shields has averaged about 63.1% FB+CT, tonight it was 66%, 63 fastballs, 3 cutters. Against New York, it was 53 fastballs, 9 cutters, for 53.4%(116 pitches), a noticeable decrease of about 10% off his season average. Not a surprise when your pitches are rated so poorly at wFB/C @ -1.99 & wCT/C at -1.66. Fangraphs actually has Shields' fastball at the worst among qualified starters. I don't know if Shoppach knows that Shields' fastball is this bad and that's why he did a good job with him behind the plate, but it'd be interesting to watch next time. I would like to see Shields use his change-up and curveball more and use his seldom used slider also to replace the lack of fastballs, since he seems to have more success doing that.
Now onto the offense. Oh boy that was not fun to watch. Unfortunately, the Rays have really had a hard time putting to together a good day at the plate in the last 2 weeks really, even when they were winning, there weren't many big days. Only 3 hits and only 6 strikeouts, and the "triple" was the only XBH that was really a bloop that's an "error" on Pie's part. A lot of hard hit balls found gloves and there were some nice drives into the outfield, but it still wasn't a good showing, again. The Rays went 0-7 tonight with RISP, continuing to add to the RISP woes. Going to to August 3rd(they went 3-5 to win 6-4), the Rays are a collective 12 of 84, a .143 BA, yes that includes the 17-11 game. Even when they won 2 of 3 @ Detroit, they went 4-35, even though they scored 16 runs. It's still a troubling trend that will hopefully end soon, otherwise it will be a long 40+ games. Getting guys on and over has come easy, the "in" part hasn't come to fruitition.
But back, to tonight's performance, there were the usual walks, 5 of them. Walks are nice, but still need to get some hits to win usually, especially of the extra base variety. There was little contact today, not in the way of swinging strikes, but just weak pop-ups and lazy flyballs to the outfield. The deeper the offensive woes continue, the more someone is going to get blamed for it-usually begins and ends with the hitting coach. The Phillies fired theirs after 3+ years of success, who knows what will happen to Shelton if the Rays are looking for a fall guy(would the old Phillies coach maybe be hired even?) Something has to give, lets just hope it's the good option. With a decrease in the home run, it's important to put the ball in play more often to get more hits, even though when they were hitting HRs, they won a lot of games just a few days ago.
Seeing the regular hitters play today and over the last few days leave me with a few thoughts. Jaso is pretty amazing to watch, 2 more BBs tonight give him 43 on the year, to only 26Ks. That's pretty good for a rookie catcher. I'm not sure what happened between 2009 & 2010, but it needs to be reversed because Zobrist does not look the same as he did last year. I don't know if an injury helped cause it, but he's not the same hitter and his swing seems totally different. He still retains a good amount of contact & plate discipline, but he doesn't have the quick bat that uppercuts a bit to generate power with a strong follow through. He seems to mostly pop-up or chop the ball into the ground a lot lately. I wish CC would have some plate discipline sometimes, runner on second with 2 outs and he goes after the 1st pitch, it's good to be aggressive, but you wish he'd just be a little more patient sometimes. Longo had 2 flyouts to RF and 1 to LF. He seems to be hitting the other way in the air this year, probably explains the power decrease as he's never been a HR hitter to RF. Thankfully Matt Joyce doesn't play against Joe Maddon otherwise he'd have a BA of like .100 with the shift. Dan Johnson is a good hitter, but he's not the solution to the offense as he doesn't add anything new, but still will make a good DH when Pena comes back. Also good to see BJ still swinging a good bat, including a single toward RF.
Notes from the game:
- I'm not sure why Shields stopped what he did against the Yankees last 2 starts, but obviously he's had 2 rough outings when you go back to a bad game plan.
- Did someone place a voodoo curse on this team? Is Jobu angry with us?
- Best part of the game was watching Felix Pie try to play LF. At least from our vantage point.
Concert tomorrow, maybe they'll win, you know for a change this week.