Now that I'm back from dinner with my wonderful Mother, I've had time to digest the game, not to mention the delicious BBQ I gorged myself on.
There's really not a whole lot to say. This game certainly stings more than the Buehrle perfecto of last season. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But it is still only one game. The Rays don't even have 10 losses yet, so in the grand scheme of things it's not a big deal. Maybe that's just the optimistic fan in me trying to rationalize the situation the best way I know how. I hope not.
Per usual, the Rays loaded their lineup with right handed hitters, sans Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena. Normally this is a good strategy, platoon splits being what they are. I say normally because things are a tad different when the opposing pitcher is equipped with an excellent change piece, as is the case with Dallas Braden. FanGraphs has the Pitch Type Value of Braden's change-up listed at 5.5 this season. That basically means he's gotten a ton of outs/strike outs with the pitch. For comparison's sake, the Pitch Type Value of James Shields' change-up thus far has been 3.3 (all stats from before today's game). This study by TheHardballTimes indicates that the change piece is the best pitch to use against opposite handed batters, thus neutralizing their platoon advantage. We've seen it with Mark Buehrle last season, and John Danks, Brett Cecil, Ricky Romero, and now Dallas Braden this season. In addition to his excellent change-up, Braden mixed in a quasi-screwball that dipped below 70mph. He really did mix his pitches beautifully today. If you add all of that up sometimes fluky things can happen.
As for Shields, he didn't pitch poorly. He left a few too many pitches up in the zone, which resulted in 11 hits, though only one extra base hit. Shields was also the unfortunate recipient of some sloppy defense by the Rays, which resulted in two unearned runs. The bright spot in this otherwise gloomy day was Shields' change-up. He threw it 31 times and registered 22 strikes, 8 of the swinging variety. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
In conclusion, things are going to be ok. Yes, the offense has slumped over the past few games, but they weren't going to keep up the torrid pace they had set earlier, either. The pitching remains excellent, as does the defense. Worry not my friends, the world is not ending. Today, the Island of Bradenia is king, which I can only imagine is ruled like this famous autonomous collective. So, congrats to Dallas Braden. Just don't let it happen again.