September 12, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon (70) in the dugout during the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
I'm not so much angry that the Rays lost tonight -- losses happen. It's how they lost that had me going all Hulk in my living room. I love Joe Maddon. I think he's the best there is in the game, but in all the years he's been with this team I don't think I've seen him manage so poorly. Jason Collette is going to have a more expansive look at the decisions in the morning, but let's review them here.
Let's start with the sixth inning. With the bases full in a tie game Maddon allowed Jose Molina to hit. It doesn't matter who was pitching, that sentence should be enough to get you outraged. If it was the second inning I could see where you let Molina hit. But it was the sixth and that could very well have been the last and best opportunity your team had at scoring the rest of the night. There were seven left handed options sitting on the bench, with Sam Fuld and Luke Scott being the best of them. Molina is great for what he does behind the plate, but I'd have rather had any of the seven hit in that situation. Molina hit a slow grounder to first for the easy out.
In the seven with the game still tied and B.J. Upton on second with two outs Maddon allowed right handed Ben Francisco to face right handed killer Darren O'Day. With the same pinch hit options sitting on the bench, O'Day schooled Francicsco, who had yet to face him in his career. That was bad. What made it even more infuriating was the fact that Sam Fuld replaced Francisco in left field in the bottom of the inning.
With two outs and one on in the eighth inning Maddon finally pinch hits, replacing Jose Molina with Luke Scott. Two innings too late. Also, I'm not sure why it was Kyle Farnsworth int he ninth inning and not Fernando Rodney. I know managers rarely use their closer in non save situations late in road games, but we saw Ron Washington get burned doing the same thing over the weekend when he allowed Mark Lowe to pitch the 10th instead of Joe Nathan. Maddon is normally better than that. We saw the result. Not the best night for the finest manager in the game.
However, the biggest gaffe of the game came from Rich Thompson. Pinch running for Jeff Keppinger, Thompson stole second on a very close play with outs. That play was good. The ensuing play was bad. Evan Longoria hit a dribbler up the third base line, forcing Manny Machado to charge the ball. Knowing he couldn't get Longoria at first, Machado smartly turned and fired the ball to third where Thompson had taken too wide of a turn, catching him in a run down to end the inning and any threat the Rays may have had. Speed does not a great base runner make.
There's not much else that needs to be hit upon. Alex Cobb didn't pitch great, but settled down after a shaky first inning to at least work into the fifth without allowing anymore runs. This was a game the Rays could have lost very early on and also could have won at any point in the final four innings. They didn't execute and the Orioles did. They deserved to lose tonight.