And the streaks continue. For some reason, the Rays just can't win on Friday nights and they can't win in Cleveland. They haven't won on a Friday since May 7th and they haven't won a game in Cleveland since 2005, so it was probably fated that they lose the game last night. That doesn't make the loss any easier to swallow as it puts the Rays four games behind the Yankees, but sometimes it's easier to believe something irrational than to accept cold, hard reality. And reality was that the Rays put on a disappointing show last night.
Why the heck can't the Rays hit Fausto Carmona? He's been an above-average pitcher this season, but he doesn't get many strikeouts and normally succeeds by inducing lots of groundballs and limiting the homerun ball. Instead, last night he struck out 7 Rays in five innings and had a 4-3 GB:FB ratio. Backwards much? As Jason Collette pointed out last night on Twitter, Carmona has owned the Rays in general this season, going 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA against them.
Apparently the Rays need to learn to hit sinkerball pitchers.
Meanwhile, Jeff Niemann did his best Carmona impression by inducing eight groundball outs while striking out four and walking three. Niemann didn't pitch terribly - he induced 7 swinging strikes on 80 pitches and had some nasty sinkers* out there - but he wasn't we good as we've come to expect from him. He left the game after the first rain delay finished, which was at the beginning of the sixth inning.
*The more I've watched Niemann this season, the more I've become fascinated with him. He's essentially a junkerball pitcher that doesn't have overwhelming stuff, but keeps hitters off-balance with his pitch sequencing and sheer number of pitches. That's why he puts us to sleep at home; he's not as eye-popping as Garza or as emotion-filled as Shields. And every now and then, when he's just about lulled you to sleep, The Big Nyquil pops off am extraordinary pitch that seems to come out of nowhere. Like I said, some of his sinkers were excellent last night, and I even saw him dial his fastball up to 95 MPH on a couple occasions. How crazy is that?
The real goat from last night, though, was the offense. The Rays managed only one hit all night, and even that was a single on a groundball to second base. The Rays didn't hit the ball hard many times, and squeaked their only run of the night across courtesy of a fielding error, wild throw on a steal attempt, and a sacrifice groundball out. This is one of those games that makes you tear your hair out, wondering why the Rays haven't made a deal for a power hitter yet. This is still a potent offense (tied for 6th best team wOBA in the majors), but when it's bad, it's bad.
Hopefully tonight's game is more fun to watch. Considering the game only lasted a bit over two hours but there were two and a half hours of rain delay, it was about as tedious and depressing as can be.