On the same day that Danny published an exhaustive analysis of Erik Bedard's slow changeup, Bedard went out and pitched a six-inning gem. I'd like to say that it was on the strength of the changeup, but he didn't throw it a ton. Brooks Baseball is being ornery with me this morning so don't take this as an exact count, but I've got five changeups for balls, and two for looking strikes (Danny did say he needed to find the strike zone a bit more with it).
What Bedard did was move his live, high-80s fastball around the strikezone and mix in his loopy curve, and the Indians hitters couldn't catch either of them. In the six innings Bedard pitched, he gave up only one hit, a double by Ryan Raburn in the second inning, and three walks, while striking out four Indians batters. He got Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn swinging on elevated fastballs, and Asdrubal Cabrera swinging on a curve below the zone.
Bedard's biggest trouble came in the top of the fourth inning when he walked Swisher and Michael Brantley to lead off the inning. Carlos Santana worked a full count, and it seemed like Bedard might become unhinged. He actually missed his location, but the pitch ended up right on the lower inside corner of the zone and was called a strike to put away Santana. I'll take it. Two fly balls got him out of the jam.
Zach McAllister had a pretty good fastball, and he was able to locate it well, but he struggled finding a feel for his secondary pitches. The Rays lineup responded by sitting on the fastball, and were able to get to McAllister as the game wore on.
Desmond Jennings lead off the third inning with a sharp line-drive single. The next two runners failed to move him into scoring position so he took matters into his own hands. He stole second easily on a curve from Zach McAllister, and then came home when David DeJesus pulled a ground ball through the right side. David Murphy tripped in the outfield, so there was no throw, but Jennings was running and I'm pretty sure he would have made it handily.
The Rays got their offense going again in the fourth inning, when James Loney was able to keep his body back on a changeup down and away and line it softly into right field. Wil Myers followed that up by jumping on a fastball in the zone, and slamming a much harder liner than Loney's to the right field wall for a double. With a runner on third base, Joyce expanded his zone and got the man in, flying a fastball down and away deep into right-center field. Jennings walked on four pitches, and Yunel Escobar collected his second RBI of the night when he swung at a fastball way above the zone, but some how managed to get his bat on top of it and slap it the other way into right.
One inning later, the Rays offense got after it again. DeJesus ripped a liner, but right at Swisher. Zobrist nearly took strike three before chopping a single through the middle that somehow found a hole despite the Indians' shift. Longoria didn't care if Zobrist's single was weak. He saw a fastball in the middle of the zone and decided to be strong, muscling it to the wall in right-center for a double. That brought the Indians' pitching coach to the mound in an attempt to buy time for the bullpen get warm, but James Loney wasted no time, reaching down for a curve and blooping it to the line in right. I honestly don't know how David Murphy wasn't able to get closer to it in left-field, but Longoria read his poor fielding correctly, and scored easily from second.
The Rays got on the board once more in the seventh inning. After Ben Zobrist doubled with one out, the lefty reliever Josh Outman intentionally walked Longoria to pitch to Loney, who worked a great at bat. He forced Outman to throw a ton of pitches, almost catching a few mistakes but sending them foul. Finally, he saw a slider on the outside (usually a good pitch lefty on lefty) that he could handle, and pulled it over the infield into right for a single.That brought about a pitching change for a righty to face Wil Myers, but Carlos Carrasco wasn't able to get it done, walking Myers on five pitches. Now he needed to face Matt Joyce with the bases loaded. His first pitch was a 95 mph fastball over the heart of the plate. It ended up as a sack fly to short center, but oh my was Carrasco living dangerously. Joyce has four grand slams in his career, and that probably should have been his fifth.
Some other notes:
- I already miss Dewayne Staats. He's like an old, worn, comfortable armchair that I just can't do without.
- The Fox Sports One broadcast had an exceptionally creepy shot, where the camera, moving shakily, zoomed in on the backs of two Cleveland fans, making it seem like the camera man was walking up behind them. Then the shot continued on between their heads and through to the baseball field. I found it unsettling. Maybe it was art?
- Big props to Juan Carlos Oviedo. Two clean innings with two strikeouts.
- Grant Balfour got some work in the ninth, and while his outing wasn't clean, I'm sure he'll be available if needed tomorrow. Going into tomorrow's game, the Rays bullpen is actually in decent shape.