For a day game that few people could actually watch, you deserve a proper recap. You deserve to come here and read a recap that explains the game, that makes you feel like you were sitting behind home plate rather than in your cubicle, and that allows you to fully participate in the story of this Rays' season. I don't have it in me to write that recap. I already know what happened, and it's not good. I can't bring myself to take notes and to concentrate on the minutia. Instead, let me recommend the box score, and the play-by-play.
Erik Bedard and Heath Bell gave up a lot of runs (Josh Lueke wasn't great either, but he kept his slate clear). Every time they found themselves down big, the Rays offense battled back to the point that a fan might stay tuned into the game. They were about an inch away from winning the game in spite of the pitching when Desmond Jennings popped up a grooved cutter with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth, but they come up short. Sometimes seven runs aren't enough.
Some other notes:
- Erik Bedard simply must throw strikes. That's pretty much all there is to it.
- No, there's actually a more to it. Bedard is at the end of his career. Alex Cobb will not teach him a new pitch. Jim Hickey will not "fix" him by teaching him a new way to use his already unique stuff. There will be no $4.5 million deal in 2015. He is not Roberto Hernandez. The best-case scenario is that Bedard continues to pitch for just a little bit longer at an acceptable level. And I want to make something very clear: he has the stuff to do that. He does not, however, appear to have the control. Five walks in four innings is not an acceptable level. Time after time, I saw Molina setting up on the edge of the plate and Bedard missing off that edge. That will not work. Bedard must not be afraid to fail. He must throw his pitches over the plate. Sometimes they will get hit, but sometimes they won't. If he isn't walking the bases full of batters, that will be good enough. What we saw today is not good enough.
- (Bedard did settle in and throw strikes for a few good innings after starting out bad enough to ruin his day.)
- In the top of the second, Josmil Pinto hit a pop fly foul and into the first row of fans near third base. Loney chased it down and got there in time, but a man in a purple shirt reached over from the second row and deflected the ball just enough for Loney to miss it. Loney ended up tangled with an older gentleman wearing Sunday blue, and somehow found a pair of glasses in his left hand (I think they came off the older gentleman's shirt). I want to set the record straight. Than man in Sunday blue did the right thing. He tried to back out of the way. He would have been out of the way, if not for the younger doofus in purple, who deflected the play back toward him. Come on, Rays fans. Here's an idea. If you have a chance to get a foul ball, but it might interfere with a Rays defensive play, don't do it. Abstain.
- Loney, by the way, is super classy. He had reason to be upset, but all he did is try on the glasses, see that they didn't fit, and then leave them with the fans. Smooth.
- In the bottom of the second inning, Longoria hit a sinking liner to left field. Sam Fuld was a bit over-eager, and tried to make an amazing grab. It was not a smart play, and it failed, giving Longoria a double rather than a single. It didn't end up mattering, though, as Loney brought Longo home with a double.
- Also in the second, DDJ pulled his hands in on a 3-2 fastball that was the ninth pitch of the at bat for his first home run of the year. He may be heating up, and that would be a very good thing for the Rays.
- I know he will probably slump eventually, but when Matt Joyce hits like this, it's tough to imagine it being any other way. In the third inning he read a backdoor breaking ball perfectly, reached for it, made easy contact, and pulled it over the second baseman's head. He's recognizing pitches extremely well right now.
- I don't care if we're down on Heath Bell right now. I want a solowheel.
- Is it just me or did Myers take a pretty bad angle to Sam Fuld's double in the fifth? Still, it was a fastball down the middle. plenty of blame to go on Bell also. As for the next mistake, a home run to Aaron Hicks, changeups at the top of the zone are generally bad news. Don't do that any more, please.
- I'm not sure whether or not Heath Bell can still be a good pitcher. Yesterday, there were people saying that they thought he looked good. Today, there are people saying that he's trash. All that I'm certain of is that there's some results-based analysis going on. His process doesn't look like trash to me, but I may not GET baseball. Also, it's only been ten innings, so I'm not confident about anything I think concerning Bell.
The best reason to watch this game is to see Juan Carlos Oviedo pitch. He entered the game with two outs in the sixth after Bell got hit by a comebacker. His first three pitches to Sam Fuld were balls with his 89-90 mph fastball. He caught the plate with his next pitch, and then placed a fastball on the outer third of the plate near the bottom edge, but Sam, studly hitter that he is, pulled it for a line drive single.
The next batter was Aaron Hicks, and Ovideo apparently took him more seriously, as he broke out the weapon that might potentially make him an important member of this bullpen: three straight changeups, all strikes at the bottom of the zone, all whiffs.
In the seventh inning, Oviedo issued a couple walks, but he wasn't particularly wild, and he may have gotten squeezed on a few of the pitches. He pumped his fastball up to 93 mph, and his changeup continued to be filthy. I know that one thirty-year-old reliever doesn't have the power to replace three injured starting pitchers and turn around the season, but right now I'm pretty convinced that Oviedo will.
Once Oviedo finished, I stopped paying close attention, so back to bullets:
- Jose Molina gave an especially weak throw to second while Brian Dozier was stealing. Mauer at the plate had some words for Molina, and it seemed like both "catchers" were amused.
- Chris Herrmann came on as a defensive replacement in the seventh, and then immediately failed to make a play on a fly ball to short right field, instead backing off and making Brian Dozier attempt a much more difficult play.
- It doesn't get talked about because he's good at a lot of things (like hitting), and it's a relatively unimportant skill, but Ben Zobrist is a good bunter. He laid one down, just out of reach of the pitcher and where it was a tough play for the third baseman, to load the bases in the seventh.
- With those bases loaded, Desmond Jennings hit the ball hard and on a line, but too close to the right fielder to be more than a sacrifice. Matt Joyce also hit the ball well (and against a lefty), but also only for a sac fly.
- As I said before, Josh Lueke pitched a scoreless frame, but it wasn't all because he was so good. This happened:
- Also, Wil Myers, whose defense I questioned earlier in the game, got a very nice jump on what could have been a Sam Fuld fly ball double in the gap.
- If I'm going to note when Lueke gets help from his defense, I should also note when Jake McGee gets help:
- Unlike Lueke, however, McGee was dominant during the rest of his inning, striking out Dozier and Herrmann.
- Logan Forsythe pinch hit for Jose Molina against a tough righty in the eighth inning. He stayed with a fastball on the bottom outside corner, and while it was a little bit off the end of his bat, he muscled it over second for an RBI single. Good job. An infield hit from Ben Zobrist loaded the bases for Desmond Jennings.
- This is the point where an inch matters. Jared Burton threw a cutter right over the heart of the plate. Desmond Jennings did the right thing and swung, hard. But the cutter movement carried Burton's pitch slightly away from where Jennings thought it was, and the result was a popup. Throw that pitch a second time, and I bet the result is a line drive. Baseball, though, does not require Burton to throw that pitch a second time. Goodnight, Rays.