Rays Drop Rubber Match Against Tigers as Offense Proves Insufficient

April 12, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann (34) pitches during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

This was a fairly disappointing loss. The Rays were facing off against Drew Smyly, in his major league debut, sending Jeff Niemann to the mound in his season debut. In the end, the offense's inability to drive in runs and the relief pitching's inability to keep the game close led to the Rays scoring fewer runs than their opposition, resulting in a loss and knocking them down to 4-2 on the season.

Both starting pitchers were fairly effective through 4 innings. Jeff Niemann was flat out dominant during this stretch. He struck out 4 hitters (including Miguel Cabrera twice) and had a 50% ground ball rate, allowing just a pair of base runners on weak hits and stifling the Tiger offense. The Rays continually mounted threats, including a bases loaded no out situation in the first, and runners in scoring position in the 3rd and 4th, but couldn't GTMI, with the only run coming off of another home run from Carlos Pena.

The fifth inning would prove to be the Rays and Niemann's undoing. Despite notching a pair of strikeouts, Niemann surrendered two walks and two hits, which led to three Tigers runs scoring, giving them a lead they would not surrender. That would be it for Niemann, because although he still appeared to be effective in this inning, by its end he reached 102 pitches.

The Rays again mounted a threat against the Tigers bullpen in the seventh inning, as a Longoria RBI single led to two men on with nobody out, and the Rays within 1 run. Jeff Keppinger lined into a double play in what resulted in a turning point in the game. After this, the Rays were never even close.

The Rays bullpen pitched rather poorly as well. JP Howell pitched a 1-2-3 6th inning, certainly a positive sign. This would be followed by the tandem of Wade Davis and Jake McGee surrendering two runs (Davis allowing the base runners and McGee allowing them to score), and Joel Peralta surrendering a pair of runs on a single, triple, and wild pitch. Obviously this is not what Rays fans want to see.

The Rays will head to Boston tomorrow to kick off a four game series. Although losing the series in Detroit is not what anyone had in mind, the win yesterday against Verlander allows the Rays to save some face and maintain their standing at the top of the scoreboard. Hopefully the boys bring their A-game in the series in Fenway.

Notes:

  • JP Howell owes his perfect inning to Matt Joyce, who, as Brian Anderson would put it, made a "right on the money" throw to nab Delmon Young trying to convert his hit into a double.
  • Carlos Pena took a pitch to the wrist area in the 5th inning. Although he appeared to be fine, I'd rather he never take a pitch there again, particularly with him on such a hot streak (which he extended today, going 4-5 with a home run).
  • Overall, today the Rays appeared to be victims of bad luck as much as anything else. They only scored 1 of their 12 base runners (that too on a home run), with untimely strikeouts and a line out into a double play. The pitching kept the ball out of the stands, recorded 8 punchouts, and only surrendered a pair of walks.
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