162 games have come to pass, and here I sit wallowing in sadness ― in order for me to watch October baseball, I’ll have to watch somebody else’s team. The season that started with such promise, at least in certain circles, is over with nothing to show but a round number in the win column.
Still, if you tweak your perspective and view the past week though a different set of lenses, you’d be left with a pretty solid six-game set of baseball. Sure it may be too little too late, but who doesn’t like to watch their team succeed in some capacity?
Let’s dive into the final week of play.
On the heels of their final off-day of the season, the Rays welcomed the Miami Marlins into the Trop for a three-game series. Matt Moore posted his third consecutive quality start in the series opener, as the lefty hurled seven strong innings while allowing just one run. Although Moore wasn’t credited with the win, Tampa Bay able to come up with a victory, 4-2 over Miami.
Moore allowed a first inning run on back-to-back doubles by Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich to start the game. After the lefty was credited with a throwing error that allowed Yelich to advance to third, Moore settled in, retiring 19 of the next 25 hitters, and allowing only two other Marlins to get as far as second base.
Over the balance of his seven inning outing, Matt scattered just one run on seven hits and a walk, while fanning three along the way. Moore was able to coax a pair of double plays in the sixth and seventh, allowing him to boast an efficient 95 pitch (66 strikes) start. As of Tuesday, the lefty allowed three runs and just three walks in 20-2/3 innings, managing an impressive 69% strike ratio (203 strikes out of 293 pitches). In short, Moore threw quality strikes, limited the amount of solid contact he allowed, and forced opposing batters to earn their way on base.
The Rays continued their push to end the season on a high note Wednesday night, scoring four two-out runs in the fifth inning en route to a 6-4 win over Miami. Drew Smyly, who took the mound for Tampa Bay, put together another encouraging start, allowing just one run on three hits, while walking three and fanning eight.
All told, Smyly relinquished two runs or fewer in eight of 12 starts this season. He also tied the record for the most September strikeouts by a Rays pitcher at 45 ― a record that was previously held by Scott Kazmir.
Then after taking a 2-1 lead in the fifth, the Rays loaded the bases on two walks and an infield hit ― a play that was originally ruled an out at second, but overturned on replay. Grady Sizemore, who went down swinging with the bases loaded an inning earlier, doubled down the left field line, clearing the bases and giving Tampa Bay four run advantage. Yes you read that correctly, Tampa Bay was actually productive with the bases loaded.
Following the game, Orestes Destrade (Fox Sports Florida) indicated that Smyly would likely undergo extensive rest and rehabilitation on his left shoulder in the off-season.
It is pretty amazing when you consider that Drew worked his way back from what could have been a career ending injury. Still, there’s no certainty that the proverbial shoe won’t drop on Smyly at some point. The team will undoubtedly do what it can between now and Spring Training to give Smyly the best opportunity to succeed.
Jake Odorizzi capped his season off with an impressive 7 IP/4 H/1 R/0 ER/7 K outing against Jose Fernandez and the Marlins. Odorizzi ended the season by giving up one earned run or less in eight of 13 home starts. Evan Longoria homered and drove in two RBI for the Rays. He hit a solo homer in the first and had an RBI double during a two-run seventh that made it 4-1. Brad Boxberger pitched the ninth for his 41st save.
Fernandez teased Longoria following his homer, telling Longo that he doesn’t have to hit home runs that far. Ever the good sport, the Marlins hurler handled the loss well:
Tampa doesn't like me, I think, Fernandez said with a smile. It's just part of the game.
After taking a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning against Mark Buehrle, the Toronto Blue Jays answered with four runs in the sixth, rolling past Tampa Bay by an 8-4 margin. The loss ended the Rays’ hopes of finishing with a .500 record, as Tampa Bay fell to 78-82. It, too, was a microcosm of why the players will be spending October at home for the second consecutive year.
Erasmo Ramirez limited Toronto to just one run for the game’s only tally over the first five innings. The righty worked in and out of trouble, though to his credit he was able to coax a good number of grounders from the Jays’ productive bats (eight singles and three ground ball outs). More than a few of those singles found holes due to defensive placement ― call it luck dragonesque.
The Rays took a 4-1 lead, thanks to Mikie Mahtook.
However, that lead was short lived. Russell Martin started a one-out rally against Ramirez with a single to center. Troy Tulowitzki singled to left, and then Kevin Pillar lined an RBI double past a diving Joey Butler in left bringing the Jays within two. Ramirez, who scattered a career-high 10 hits, departed for Enny Romero.
Following in the footsteps of his contemporaries, Romero couldn’t hold the lead. Ryan Goins tripled to right, plating two runs to tie the game at four. With a runner at third and just one out, Ben Revere hit a sacrifice-fly to right giving Toronto a one-run advantage.
They went on to score three more runs off Andrew Bellatti for a womp-womp ending to the game.
The Rays bounced back Saturday, rallying for a pair of two-out runs in the bottom of the ninth, walking away with a 4-3 walk off victory ― just their third of the season.
Chris Archer gave up just one run on five hits over his five inning start, finishing the season with a 12-13 record, and a 3.23 ERA/2.91 FIP, racking up a single season franchise best 252 strikeouts. He departed with the game tied at one, something that reliever Brandon Gomes obviously took exception to.
Gomes took the mound and hit Jose Bautista with a 1-2 slider to start the frame. Five pitches later, the ever dangerous Edwin Encarnacion lined a two-run homer to left (his 39th of the season) giving the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead.
But Tampa Bay refused to roll over and play dead in the seventh inning, however, as the team drew within a run when Asdrubal Cabrera homered to right, his 15th of the season.
After CJ Riefenhauser, Steve Geltz, Jake McGee, and Alex Colome kept the Rays within striking distance, Grady Sizemore led off the bottom of the ninth with a double to left-center. However, Evan Longoria reached for an outside fastball and popped out to first, and Cabrera went down looking after getting ahead 3-0.
Steven Souza Jr. and James Loney worked a pair of walks, loading the bases for Tim Beckham, who was playing second for the injured Logan Forsythe. Beckham took the first pitch ― a fastball over the other third of the plate ― for a strike, then lined a two-run single to left for the win.
.@T_Beckham22 walks it off, @steveaoki busts out the champagne. That escalated quickly. pic.twitter.com/yxdbNJRkft — Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 4, 2015
After a long and grinding season, it all came down to this. Tampa Bay scored nine runs in the first inning, the most in any inning this year, and finished off the 2015 season with a 12-3 win over Toronto.
It became the second time in club history that the Rays scored at least nine runs in the first — the last time was June 25, 2008 against the Marlins (10 runs). In the game, Joey Butler went yard twice, including in the first when he hit the team’s first and only grand slam of the season.
With Butler's 2nd HR, #Rays rookies' 57 HR are most by an AL team since 2003 @Indians. WATCH: http://t.co/D43hgeLfnt pic.twitter.com/Yk4Z3XG0cy — Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 4, 2015
How could I forget Mikie Mahtook, who crushed a monster blast to left field?
Don’t look now, but Mahtook amassed a productive .290 BA/.349 OBP/.600 SLG/.949 OPS/.403 wOBA line in 110 plate appearances. Compare that with Desmond Jennings, who put together a .268 BA/.324 OBP/.340 SLG/.664 OPS/.294 wOBA line in 108 plate appearances through injury.
If someone doesn’t get traded this winter, I’d imagine the two could find themselves in an old fashioned battle for an outfield spot during Spring Training.
The run support was more than enough for Matt Moore, who posted six innings of one run/four hit baseball. It was the fourth consecutive quality start for Moore, who allowed four total runs in his last four starts. Moore walked four and struck out four, with Chris Colabello’s fourth inning homer being the only mark against his record.
A good number of questions lay in the wake of Sunday’s season finale. How will Matt Silverman fill the presumed hole at short? Will John Jaso return to the fold next season? How will the team attempt to build a dominant bullpen? ...So on and so forth. What is known, Stu Sternberg will again put together another $70MM ball club — give or take a couple million.