Up until Wednesday, things were going pretty well. Rays were on a 3 game winning streak, were in the midst of a 8-1 home stand and just seem to keep rolling. Somewhere along the way though the wheels came off as the Rays have dropped 3 straight, each in its own excruciating fashion.
Tonight's downfall was spearheaded by the defense. Yes, the offense was once again nonexistent, but the one big advantage that the Rays have is defense over the other teams and that decided to take a vacation tonight as 2 errors led to 2 runs. The first occurred on a throwing by Sean Rodriguez. With no outs and Edwin Encarnacion on 2nd after a double(He probably should've been held to a single, but was able to get to 2nd on a bad read by Kapler), Jose Molina lined out to 2nd, and tried to double him up. Why he tried to double him up when there was no play? Just poor decision making mostly, trying to make something out of nothing and it proved costly as he misfired badly and the ball went into LF, scoring the first Blue Jay easily. Garza would then retire the remaining batters of the inning keep the score at 1-1.
Garza would settle down and get into a good pace until the seventh. Anytime you keep the ML leader in HRs in the infield, you did something right, unfortunately, after Garza fielded Jose Bautista's comebacker, he side-armed it toward Zobrist at first base, having it bounce away and letting Bautista reach safely. Could Zobrist have picked it? Sure. Should he have picked it? Probably. But there was enough time to make a good throw and make the play easily. A hit and 2 outs later. Lyle Overbay hits a double into LF, scoring Bautista from third and end the scoring at 2-1.
Overall, Garza pitched a good game, and gave the Rays offense plenty of opportunities to put something together. He generally kept the ball up and out of the reach of many of Toronto's HR-hitters, only having them make weak contact on the balls put into play. He kept to the same strategy that had been used between him and Shoppach lately-fastballs and lots of them, 79 out of 102 this outing. 55 were strikes with 4 swinging strikes, but his slider may have been his best pitch tonight, throwing 15 of them, 9 strikes overall and 5 swinging. Only 4 hits and 4K, but no walks. You hate when these kind of outings end up as losses. Good pitching is a terrible thing to waste.
Another tough day for the Rays offense. Of the 5 hits, 3 came in the first, leading to the only run. Outside of the 6-run explosion thursday in the 8th, they've struggled to score any in the last few games. GTMI has been a hot/cold approach lately, but it's hard to execute it if there's no one on base half the time. Longoria & Crawford have been at the forefront of the Rays offense lately, but when 1 isn't playing and the other is a bit cold-that's going to lead to problems. The rest of the players need to step up and do something. Their best chance to score was in the top of the 6th, with runners on first and second 0 outs and Longoria up at the plate. But after getting ahead 2-0, Cecil was able to get him into a 2-2 count and GIDP essentially ending the threat. Longo was able to stay out of GIDPs a lot early on, but has had a bunch lately. Lots of great hitters GIDP, including Albert Pujols, but you hate to see Longoria start regressing to the mean at a time like this. Cecil is a good pitcher-but they looked helpless at the plate today. 10Ks and the bottom half of the order didn't reach base once, tough to win with that.
As for the 9th inning, after Longoria singled into LF, why didn't Carl Crawford or Reid Brignac PH in order to squeeze an extra little bit out of the offense? I don't know, even with the PH penalty, they'd still be an upgrade over Aybar/Bartlett and have a better chance of getting something to happen. I'm not sure what stat there is that keeps Bartlett in the line up as much as he is, but he better keep it secret because it keeps working for him.
Important notes from the game:
- This is the fourth straight game in which the Rays offense was only able to muster 5-6 hits. Eventually, 5-6 hits doesn't get the job done unless a couple of balls are going over the fence.
- The Rays offense is really missing Carlos Pena. Last year after his hand was broken, the offense completely shut down and it may be happening again. In the last 30 days, Pena was hitting .265/.398/.603-good enough for a wOBA of .438!!! Pena's career numbers in August would let us believe he was ready to help carry the team too(.278/.395/.615).
- You really appreciate Carl Crawford's defense in LF when you watch anyone else patrol it.
- There must be a block on certain things-Davis getting his 10th win(so all starters are at 10+), Garza getting #12(career high), Price getting #15(Franchise high).
Tomorrow is a new game, and as good a time as any to start a new winning streak.