Getting home at roughly 3 in the morning from an 11 day road trip would be enough to leave any team feeling tired. That's exactly how the Rays played during the first four innings of the game. Tired. Matt Garzastruggled early and the offense recorded just one hit through 4.2 IP. At one point Brett Cecil had retired 11 batters in a row. Not a good start for the good guys. It would get a bit better toward the latter half of the game, but sadly the team would come up one run short.
As mentioned above, Matt Garza struggled. The dominant pitcher we saw in his first three starts of the season was not there tonight. Even though his line was quite ugly (5IP, 8H, 5R, 5ER, 4BB, 6K), nearly all of the damage came in the first inning. In that first inning Garza threw 41(!) pitches and allowed four of the five runs while walking two batters. While it wasn't exactly smooth sailing after that first inning, he did work his way out of a few more jams, Garza ended up working four more innings and limiting any further damage. Sadly, I was attending a dinner during most of Garza's outing so I was unable to view a good portion. However, I could listen to the radio. Broadcasters Dave Wills and Andy Freed kept making it a point to emphasize that, to them, it didn't look as if Garza had much movement on his fastball. Not fully trusting their eyes (nothing personal, guys), I looked at the Pitch F/X data from Garza's start tonight compared with his seasonal average thus far. Here's what we get:
AVG V-Break: 11.06
AVG H-Break: -2.70
AVG V-Break: 10.75
AVG H-Break: -2.59
For those of you who aren't familiar, AVG V-Break shows how much a pitch moves vertically, with~5 meaning sinker, ~8 being a regular fastball, and ~10 being a very good one with rise. AVG H-Break shows in which direction and how many inches a pitch broke in to a batter. A negative number means the pitch moved in to righties, a positive meaning it moved in to lefties. Looking at the numbers, it appears that Garza was getting more movement on his fastball than normal, meaning it was likely a location/command that was his bugaboo. He did only generate five swinging strikes on the night, all coming on his slider. The five swings and misses on his slider shouldn't elicit more than a yawn, considering Garza had a 25.6% Whiff Rate on the pitch coming into tonight. He wasn't at his best, but he did overcome a rocky start to keep the game in check, and I don't think that's something the old Matt Garza could have done. So, that's something.
-Yes, Kapler hit a big home run to pull the Rays within sniffing distance of a victory. It was hit off of Brett Cecil, a lefty. That is what Kapler is here to do. What Kapler is not here to do is face right handed pitchers in the bottom of the 9th inning with his team down a run. Especially when the Rays had left handed Reid Brignacsitting on the bench. He could have pinch hit for then played second base if necessary the following inning with Ben Zobristmoving to right field. Kapler grounded out softly for the first out in the 9th instead, and I couldn't have been more furious.
-Kevin Kennedy helped to subdue a possible hijacker on a plane? Kevin Kennedy is a hero? What? I'd like to think that he lulled the man to sleep with stories from his managerial days.
-I'm liking Rafael Sorianomore and more every time I see him. He was absolutely filthy tonight.