Once again Jeff Niemann faltered against a team not named the Minnesota Twins. Against the Twins Niemann has 14 IP in two starts. In his other four starts he has 17.1 IP total. That's...not good. The Big Nyquil lasted only four innings tonight before getting pulled out of the game with what the team is calling "back stiffness." He struck out none and walked none, but did allow six hits and three earned runs.
There's something wrong with Niemann that I think extends further than back stiffness. His velocity is down a touch this year, but not 2-3 MPH like the recently DL'd Phil Hughes. Look at Niemann's pitch velocity chart as tonight's game went on:
A trip to the DL has to be in his future sometime soon. Even if he isn't hurt it will give him time to right whatever wrong is ailing him at the moment.
This was the strangest game of the Rays season to say the least. Let's recap the weirdness:
- -Niemann left after 4IP with back tightness
- -A ball got stuck under the padding in left field and Johnny Damon still got thrown out at home trying to score on the play.
- -Casey Kotchman stole a base against Jose Molina.
- -Dan Johnson pinch hit for Brignac vs Morrow in the 7th with a man on, presumably because Johnson has more power and could tie the game with one swing.
- -Both managers were ejected within 10 minutes of each other. Farrell got tossed for arguing balls and strikes between innings, and Maddon got the hook after the umpires reversed a seemingly irreversible call at first base.
- The Rays didn't record their first strike out until the 25th out of the game.
- -B.J. Upton got ejected the following inning for vehemently disagreeing with the home plate umpire's strike three call and had to be restrained by multiple people. I've never seen Upton so upset.
Upton seemed to take out the frustrations that were no doubt shared by both teams. Chad Fairchild had one of the most inconsistent strike zone's you'll ever see. Click the image below to embiggen.
Blame isn't squarely on the umpire. The Rays had chances to score runs tonight but failed to capitalize. The lone bright spot was the performance of the bullpen. Sonnanstine, Juan Cruz, and Adam Russell combined for five innings of two hit, no run ball. Ricky Romero was scratched from his start tomorrow and Kyle Drabek will go in his place. Hopefully the Rays can take advantage of a rookie starting.