On paper, this game was over before it began. After only two innings it was over in real life, too.
There is plenty to like about Cesar Ramos. The Rays needed a starting pitcher, and he's filling that need. He's been solid his past several outings. Ramos attacks the zone. He pitches without fear. Tonight, though, we got a demonstration of why fear exists. Fear is there to keep us from getting hurt. Fear let's us know when we should stop; when we aren't good enough for what we're about to do. I imagine that fear tells Cesar Ramos that he's a middle reliever masquerading as a starter, but that Cesar Ramos ignores his fear as he heads to the mound. I bet it also tells him that he can't throw his pedestrian fastball over the plate, but he ignores that as well. Sometimes we get lucky and can transcend our abilities, but sometimes fear is right.
James Jones started things off with a line drive to right-center for a leadoff double. Up next Stefen Romero slapped an elevated fastball down the first base line. The speedy Jones would have scored anyway, but Wil Myers bobbled his pickup and Romero alertly advanced to second. Myers was charged with an error. Cano jumped on a pitch over the outer half of the plate at his knees and drove it the other way where, it bounced off the top of the left-field wall for a double. Corey Hart followed that up with a mirror-image drive to right field that bounced off the top of the wall and straight to Myers. Hart thought he had homered, and slowed to a trot around first. When he realized his fly ball had stayed in, he tried to accelerate again, but was thrown out at second. Still, three runs had scored. And unfortunately, the Mariners were not done.
Cano and Hart had missed hitting back-to-back opposite-field homers by about an inch each. Mike Zunino, leading off the inning, did not. he took hold of a fastball in the zone and drove it several rows deep in right. Then the Rays defense came apart. Brad Miller grounded softly to third, but Evan Longoria uncorked a bad throw that pulled James Loney off the bag. He didn't need to rush his throw, as there was plenty of time. He simply missed. Up next, Jones hit a sharp comebacker to Ramos, who turned and had time to get the lead runner at second and possibly to start a double play. He too missed his throw though, firing low and too far wide of Yunel Escobar. As the ball rolled into center field, Miller advanced to third.
Romero laced a line drive into left for an RBI double, which set up Cano for a sac fly. Hart walked, and Justin Smoak hit the ball hard to right, but Myers made the catch on the warning track. The hard-hit-ball parade continued with Craig Seager lining into right to score a run, and then the error-parade continued. Dustin Ackley rolled the ball toward first base. It wasn't well-hit, but I suppose it was perfectly placed: right between James Loney's legs. It rolled through and into right field, where Zobrist also stabbed at it but came up empty. The eighth run scored.
In the sixth inning, Longoria, Zobrist, and Loney all took a seat for Brandon Guyer, Logan Forsythe, and Sean Rodriguez. The reserves did put up some fight, culminating in a three-run bases-loaded double by Ryan Hanigan that scored S-Rod, Forsythe, and Myers, but they didn't even dent the win probability graph.
Some other notes:
- Cesar Ramos, to his credit, pulled his game together (by throwing only 25% fastballs), and lasted a full six and two thirds innings. That meant he was able to turn the game over directly to the Rays' designated mop-up guy, Josh Lueke. If the bullpen is able to perform well in the rest of the series, give Ramos his due for being a tough guy in a tough outing.
- Josh Lueke gave up a monster homer to Stefen Romero, and a two-run opposite-field shot to Justin Smoak.
- In the sixth inning, Matt Joyce made a good diving catch off a sinking Robinson Cano line drive. It seems strange, but the Rays "designated hitter" has looked better in the outfield this year than he did last year.
- The Mariners announcers kept going on about how King Felix was unhappy with the home plate umpire. They were obviously right, as Hernandez got himself tossed by jawing at Mark Ripperger after he had been lifted. Here's the problem -- Hernandez wasn't right to be mad. In the first inning, he walked David DeJesus (objectively), but the umpire called ball four a strike. There were other instances where he was given inches below and on the outside of the zone. Moreover, getting yourself tossed for bitching at a ref (when you aren't right) while exiting in a 9-3 game is not a good look. It's entitled and self-centered, and I'm a Felix fan.
- Wil Myers collected another infield hit. You can complain about him swinging at too many sliders down and away, but you can't say that he doesn't hustle down the line.
- Felix Hernandez's 90 mph circle change is a pretty incredible pitch.
- In the ninth inning, Escobar drew a walk and Hanigan singled into the left-field corner. Escobar ran hard and scored on the single.
- These notes are too positive -- not at all the impression I wanted to give -- so here's one more. It's 1:25, I'm still awake (and if you're reading this tonight so are you) and the Rays suck.