After a relative offensive explosion (six runs) last night the Rays offense came back to earth, scoring just three runs in a loss to the Yankees and falling four games behind them in the standings. In the last five games the Rays have scored 15 runs. Not surprisingly they also have a 1-4 record in those games.
Tonight the offense had some chances, but was held in check by Ivan Nova who was making his first start since coming off the disabled list. In his six innings he allowed two runs but struck out eight and induced 15 swinging strikes, including seven on his curveball. The Rays didn't have a man on second until Matt Joyce doubled in the fifth inning but were unable to bring him in. An Evan Longoria home run in the sixth lowered the deficit to three. Luke Scott added a pinch-hit two run single in the seventh to close within one, but that would be as close as the Rays would get. They put two men on in the ninth against former-Ray Rafael Soriano -- Vogt walked! -- but he was able to get Elliot Johnson to chase a high fastball to end the game. No start got more than one hit and the top five hitters went a combined 3-20 with seven strikeouts and no walks. Hard to win that way.
Starting pitcher James Shields didn't have his best outing either. Coming off his complete game shutout of the Rangers last weekend, he allowed four earned runs in his six and a third innings of work. Three of those runs came in the second inning after he walked Raul Ibanez and gave up back to back home runs to Curtis Granderson and Eduardo Nunez. He was able to get eight whiffs on 29 changeups and recorded nine total outs with the pitch and eight through the first three innings. You wouldn't call the pitch that Granderson hit out a mistake. He threw him a changeup low and away and out of the zone and somehow Granderson was able to pull it over the right field wall.
The pitch to Nunez was a mistake, a cutter that caught too much of the inside of the plate.
Jake McGee's streak of seven straight batters struck out came to an end. He actually went a full inning without striking out a soul. The run he allowed really shouldn't have been scored as earned as B.J. Upton misplayed a ball he really should have caught. Hometown official scorers for the win.
Matt Moore starts tomorrow. The Rays desperately need him to improve upon his outing last week in Baltimore when he lasted just four innings. Falling five games out at this point in the season might be too big of a hill to climb.