After all this winning, it feels odd to watch the Rays lose. I know it's going to happen plenty more times this season, but the team has been on such a roll recently, I can't help but expect them to win every time they play. On Saturday, though, the Rays came up short on both sides of the ball: they couldn't get a hit off of Ben Sheets after the second inning and Wade Davis was good, but not quite good enough.
The deciding moment of the game came in the seventh inning. The Rays went into the inning down 3-2, but Ben Sheets was wearing down and it looked like the Rays might be able to capitalize. Ben Sheets was taken out of the game after walking Pat Burrell and getting an out on a fielder's choice, so Reid Brignac walked to the plate with John Jaso on first. Brignac smacked a double to right field, giving the Rays runners on second and third with one out. Get The Man In! Unfortunately, Jason Bartlett hit a groundball to the third baseman, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and John Jaso got caught in a rundown and was thrown out at the plate. The runners advanced, but Carl Crawford struck out and the threat was over. The Athletics scored an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh and the game was effectively over.
We all know that the Rays are hitting unsustainably well with runners in scoring position. Their current slash-line with runners in scoring position is a ridiculous .321/.399/.517, at least partially courtesy of a .359 BABIP. As we witnessed tonight, the Rays aren't likely to keep hitting in runners at this rate, so let's not overreact now. It's one game. C'est la vie.
Next up, a look at Wade Davis.
While the Rays' offense was not at its best tonight, Wade Davis provided the team with a solid performance: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. It wasn't a great start by any stretch of the imagination, but he is the Rays' fifth starter and he got through five innings while providing the team with a chance to win - can't ask for much more than that. Similar to the other starts where he's struggled, Davis seemed to lack confidence in his breaking pitches - notably his slider and change-up. He threw his four- and two-seam fastballs 75% of the time, while only tossing four change-ups and five sliders on the night (actually, make that three sliders; two pitches were misclassified in the Pitch f/x data). He did throw his curveball about 15% of the time, but he didn't get a single swinging strike with it. On the night, Davis had a total of six swinging strikes (6%), almost exclusively on his fastballs. Like I said, not the best night, but a passable one at least.
Davis still has some adjustments to make at the major-league level and the key for him appears to be his breaking pitches. Remember the difference last year between first-half David Price and second-half David Price? Once Price developed a curveball and change-up and grew confident in them, he became able to mix pitches more effectively and keep batters off balance. Davis has those pitches, but he needs to use them more and gain some confidence in them. Once that happens, he's going to become much more effective on a regular basis and should be a force to be reckoned with.