SEATTLE - JUNE 05: Miguel Olivo #30 of the Seattle Mariners watches his three run homer in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field on June 5, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Let's get this out of the way in the beginning: Seattle isn't a particularly strong team. Sure, they have a winning record and are in second place in their division, but the Rays' pitching should have been able to contain their offense this series, considering they'd averaged 3.5 runs per game. But four days later, the Rays just got outscored in this series 26-11. Darn.
Without a doubt, the story of today's game was J.P. Howell. Howell entered today's game at the start of the eighth inning, defending a one run lead that the Rays had just won back in the top of the eighth. But after allowing a walk and two singles, Maddon pulled him for Joel Peralta, who promptly allowed a three run homerun. This ended up being the difference in the game, as the Rays couldn't get anything going in the ninth inning against Brandon League.
Joe Maddon has been trusting in Howell so far this year, bringing him in during medium-to-high leverage situations even though Howell has only recently returned from an injury. I was with Maddon on this, since outside Peralta and Farnsworth, the rest of our bullpen options aren't the most attractive. But after seeing Howell struggle in yet another appearance, his fourth straight time out that he's allowed a run to score, I think it might be time to reevaluate.
It's not uncommon for pitchers returning from injuries to have trouble with tie command, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is the problem with Howell. Balls are falling in for hits against him at a crazy high rate (.462 BABIP), which I think speaks to him leaving pitches over the plate and letting them get hit hard. I'd have to look back through his past starts to be sure, but it seems a reasonable hypothesis. And if that's the case, we're going to have to deal with Howell's struggles until he gets all the way back.
- Evan Longoria pinch hit in the eighth inning, and although he looked a little stiff when warming up in the on-deck circle, he hit a single that knocked in the go-ahead run. As far as I've heard, Longoria is still day-to-day with some stiffness in his side.
- Wade Davis was better today - nothing especially noteworthy, but he took some steps in the right direction. His pitch location left something to be desired - he left too many pitches over the plate, and missed high in the zone way too often - but he got a lot more swinging strikes than in any of his recent starts (8, or 7.4%). He also only allowed five hits and one walk over 7 innings, but unfortunately those baserunners all came clumped together and almost all scored.
- This was one of those series that's it's best to forget it happened. To look on the bright side, at least the Rays are still a game above .500.