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Rays vs. Brewers, game 3 recap: David Price off the mark, offense absent

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Yovani Gallardo shuts the Rays down through seven.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Probably he won't be traded tomorrow, but he might. David Price is the best pitcher this organization has ever had. He's already won one Cy Young award, and if not for the current ridiculous of Felix Hernandez, he would be on the inside track for another. You'd like to see a pitcher like that go out triumphant, when he goes, the way James Shields did (complete game, one run, two hits, fifteen strikeouts, albeit in a loss). Maybe this was only his last start for the Rays in July, as Price tweeted, but if it was his last ever, well, that's a shame.

Price started off well, fooling Carlos Gomez on a changeup, pounding the zone with a curve that Gomez fouled off, and then freezing him for strike three looking with a 93 mph fastball. The next batter, Jonathan Lucroy, sent a sinking line drive the other way but Kevin Kiermaier got a good jump on it and made a diving catch. Price  then got Ryan Braun to reach for an outside fastball and ground out harmlessly to first base. Braun inexplicably fell on his face as he ran up the line, and one could be forgiven for thinking that today was the Rays' day. It was not.

The bottom of the inning started well enough too. Desmond Jennings hit a ground ball that forced Jean Segura to range to his left, and then snuck under his glove. Segura was originally charged with an error, but the play was eventually changed to a single for Jennings. Ben Zobrist then smacked a single down the line, and when Matt Joyce hit a fly ball to the outfield reasonably well, Jennings was able to tag up and advance. That brought the Rays best hitter, Evan Longoria, to the plate, and he immediately reached for a fastball on the outside and grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. That was the Rays chance, since Yovani Gallardo was about to take control.

I love inter-league games, largely because of days like this. I watch the Rays a lot, and that means that I don't get to see half of the league as much as it takes to be a well-rounded baseball fan. I know very little about Yovani Gallardo other than that he's pretty good and that he gets ground balls. I was pumped to watch him, and he did not disappoint (to any Brewers fans feeling disappointed in David Price right now, try to picture what you just saw except always hitting his spots, and perhaps controlling the inner third of the plate a little better).

On paper, Gallardo's sinker doesn't look that impressive.

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via pitchfx.texasleaguers.com

It doesn't have much vertical drop to it, nor does it run armside the way you expect from the game's elite sinkerballers. It only averages 92 mph. What you can't see on the chart is that Gallardo pushes off from the extreme left side of the rubber. His release point is about as far to the glove side as possible. The result is that when he pitches to the outside of the plate against a lefty, the ball really does have noticeable movement away from the batter. It's the same principle that side-arming LOOGYs use with their sliders, just much more subtle and versatile. His slider and curve don't suck, either.

And while I can't say whether it's an important reason for his success, I love Gallardo's delivery. He throws his glove arm forward as his pitching arm goes back, and then pivots them like a see-saw as he comes forward. It's smooth and aesthetically pleasing, and judging by his fine command, repeatable. I wish the Rays offense had managed to do something more in this game, but sometimes the other guy beats you.

The Runs

In the second innings, Aramis Ramirez hit a decent fastball up the middle for a single. Price quickly got two strikes against Rickie Weeks, but then with catcher Jose Molina set up inside, he missed badly outside. Price kept trying to find that inside corner, but he could not, and four straight balls walked Weeks. Price earned a strikeout of Kris Davis despite missing his spot on two pitches, but he then issued another uncharacteristic walk to Mark Reynolds. Martin Maldonado served a changeup on the bottom outside corner up the middle into center field. It looked like Maldonado was looking for the pitch, since it was by no means an easy pitch to hit. The whole inning was an example of just how small the margin of error is in major league baseball. Price made some good pitches, but he also missed badly on some. The Brewers deserve credit for taking the balls and hitting the pitches that they could, but Price did not consistently have the pinpoint command that has made him an ace in this league. Even an ace needs to be right, or he's not an ace anymore.

In the next inning, Jonathan Lucroy reached for an outside fastball and grounded it sharply back up the middle for a single. It was a good piece of hitting. next up, Ryan Braun grounded sharply to Yunel Escobar, who botched his pickup and never could get control of the ball, bobbling it until all runners were safe, rather than a possible double play. Next, Price threw Ramirez a fastball on the outer third, that Aramis tagged well for an RBI single to make the Rays pay.

In the sixth inning, Khris Davis did well to tag a back-foot cutter (that perhaps didn't get as far inside as David Price wanted) for a ground-rule double. The lead runner was erased on a Reynolds fielder's choice, but Maldonado once came through (a pitch after Price missed strike three just inside) with a liner into the gap to score Reynolds from first.

Kirby Yates also gave up a run. Oh well.

It seemed to me that the Brewers' strategy tonight was to look for pitches on the outer third and go out to get them. It's a fine strategy against Price. Many of the Milwaukee hits came on pitches were they were leaning well out over the plate (they also missed some badly on the outside). I do think that Price and Molina would have done well to establish the inside corner a bit more, but it's not like they didn't try at all. Sometimes they just missed. If Price were to hit his spots a bit better, he carves up this lineup with the exact approach he took, so yeah, it's mostly just a matter of execution.

Some other notes:

  • I'm bringing it down here, rather than in the body of the play-by-pay, as it will get lost in the negativity. In the third inning, with everything going wrong, with runners on first and second base, David Price threw an outside elevated fastball past Weeks. Both runners were going. Jose Molina kept his glove locked in place while springing to his feet and turning the rest of his body to get in position for a throw. As soon as the ball hit his glove, he began his transfer, and then fired accurately to the front of the third base bag, catching Braun by a mile. Jose Molina is seldom regarded as "elegant" in these parts, but for this play I have no other word. It was a masterpiece of movement efficiency. When he retires in about ten years, I hope the Rays can hire him to teach all of their minor league catchers to move behind the plate like that.
  • The Rays, always a tease, loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth inning. No more magic, though.
  • Khris Davis hit a ground-rule double into the Rays tank. That's gotta be a first, right?
  • I took the quiz. I'm Dewayne.