After James Shields picked up the team with his complete game shutout yesterday afternoon I hoped the positive energy may carry over to tonight. No such luck. The offense didn't score enough runs when it had the opportunities and the pitching imploded late in the game. It was as simple as that.
You all can find a regular recap of the game anywhere. Let's take a look at two situations that ended up costing the Rays dearly.
In the 6th inning with the score tied, Miguel Cabrera smacked a Jeremy Hellickson fastball into right filed. Matt Joyce throw it home in plenty of time, the ball meeting Kelly Shoppach's in front of the plate. The runner was a few steps in front of Shoppach, seemingly enough time for him to swing around and apply the tag. Instead, he froze for a second which was just enough time for Brendan Boesch to avoid the tag and slide home safely.
There are two issues here. One is the fact that Shoppach should have tagged him out. There's no question about that. The second is the decision to pitch to Miguel Cabrera with two outs and first base open. I know Victor Martinez hits behind Cabrera, and is excellent, but I would have rather made him beat you in that situation. Cabrera should get the Jose Bautista treatment whenever it's necessary. He's that good.
The second game changing situation came in the 8th inning with the score still 2-1. With two on and 1 out, and Miguel Cabrera again at the plate, Juan Cruz was called upon to relieve J.P. Howell. He ended up walking Cabrera to load the bases and then gave up a double and a single without recording an out to put the Rays in a huge hole. Shields had given the bullpen a day off the game before, so there shouldn't have been any restrictions regarding usage. At that point of a game I want either Joel Peralita or Kyle Farnsworth in the game. The at bats by Cabrera and Martinez were some of the highest leverage situations of the night. That is a spot Juan Cruz should not be pitching in unless absolutely necessary. It was rare bad bullpen usage by Joe Maddon in my opinion.
The Rays bats are struggling and a match up against Justin Verlander doesn't seem to be the ideal cure. Hopefully I'm wrong and they can take it down tomorrow.