I've been told by some TV financial 'analysts' that a Bull Market is a good thing. It's associated with increasing investor confidence. Well, I was anything but confident in the (Durham) Bull Market the Rays threw out in the lineup today. Remember, like, a week ago, when the Rays lineup began to look downright scary? Everyone was clicking, even Ben Zobrist was turning his slow start around. Well, flash forward to today and there's a lineup missing Evan Longoria (out 4-8 weeks), BJ Upton (day to day), and Ben Zobrist (day off). With these starters out, it's no surprise when you see Jeff Keppinger starting at third , Will Rhymes at second, and Brandon Allen in left. Compound those offensive and defensive downgrades with the short leash on #5 starter Jeff Niemann and depleted bullpen, and you have yourself a recipe for a huge crash.
Well, those financial guys must know something I don't, because even with all the warning signs, the Rays found a way to beat the Seattle Mariners this afternoon and earn a rare four-game sweep.
Everyone knows it's impossible to fill Evan Longoria's shoes. Seriously, he puts holes in them. But, Jeff Keppinger did his darndest today. Kepp went 2-2 with a walk this afternoon. His biggest hit was his first: a two-out, two-run homer to left in the second inning to put the Rays on the board.
Chris Gimenez and Sean Rodriguez followed with back-to-back singles, Sean's just missing the glove of shortstop Munenori Kawasaki. Desmond Jennings would plate both of them with a triple to right-center to give the Rays their fourth and final runs of the day.
With all the Rays runs coming in the second inning, it would be up to Jeff Niemann and the bullpen to hold back the Mariners' bats. Niemann was typical Nyquil this afternoon: 5.2 IP, 3ER, 7H, 2BB, 5K. The Mariners loaded their lineup with lefties and switch hitters against the big-righty, but inflicted only a moderate amount of damage. My expectations went from "Mo Lefties, Mo Problems" to "No Righties, No Problem." He was let down a bit by his defense in the second inning when John Jaso 'doubled' to left center to give the M's runners on second and third with no outs. I'll put up the gif of what happened after the jump and you decide. Anyhoo, RBI-groundout, RBI-single, double-play is how the inning ended with the Mariners up 2-0.
Niemann was pulled with two outs in the sixth inning in favor of Jake McGee. Thanks to Eric Wedge's lefty-thon, McGee pitched dominantly for 2.1 perfect innings while striking out three. My power went out while McGee was in, so I can't be more descriptive, but from what I was told, he was lights out. Feel free to discuss in the comments.
If the lineup was a 'Bull Market,' then the bullpen was a 'Bare Cupboard.' McGee's contribution was paramount given that Wade Davis, Joel Peralta and J.P. Howell were all unavailable today. Joe Maddon didn't want Fernando Rodney to have to pitch today, but the situation dictated it, and the Archer closed out the game for his ninth save of the year.
- Here's 'The Brandon Allen Experiment:" (click to make it go)
- Allen also let a bloop fly-ball fall in front of him later in the game. Again, it's not that he's the worst thing ever out there, it's just that we've gotten so spoiled with Upton in center and Jennings in left (and Crawford before him) that we forget what it's like when someone less defensively inclined takes the position. Let's hope Upton can return ASAP and Maddon can keep Ballen in that DH/PH/1B role.
- I say Kepp did his best Longo impression, but it wasn't quite perfect. Defensively, Kepp missed a foul popup and couldn't field a tough bunt. These weren't easy plays, by any stretch, but they're ones we've seen Longoria make time and again. Although, it was a day game after a night game, so you never know.
- The only reason Kepp had the chance to launch that homer was because of Will Rhymes hustled-out infield single in the previous AB. Rhymes is certainly doing his best Sam Fuld impression at the moment.
- Tomorrow the Rays take on the A's to finish off this homestand. David Price takes on Tyson Ross @ 7:10 PM. Let's hope the Rays cook that Tyson. Ain't no thing, but a chicken wing.