The Rays dropped their second straight game to the Orioles, this time by a score of 6-5. One run losses are common throughout baseball, but it's how this one unfolded that really stings.
If I told you the Rays scored five runs and only allowed one hit after the second inning you'd probably guess they won easily. Sadly, that wasn't the case tonight.
Nate Karns, making just his sixth start in the big leagues, struggled mightily in the first inning, giving up hits to the first four Orioles he faced. His stuff, i.e. velocity and movement, was there but he had little to no command of his pitches. He would routinely miss the target Rene Rivera set up for him which resulted in hanging curveballs and easily hittable fastballs.
As much as the first inning hurt, the second would actually sting worse when the game ended. With two outs and a man on first, Karns quickly jumped ahead of Steve Pearce with two called strikes on his curveball. Instead of throwing the ball away from the plate and baiting Pearce into chasing a pitch Karns spun another curveball, and Pearce deposited it into the left field bleaches. Two out, two strike home runs are the bane of a baseball fan's existence. There's no guarantee that if Karns gets that out the Rays win the game - they had plenty of blown chances offensively - but it certainly feels like it.
After the second inning Karns was able to find his control and pitch wonderfully. Over the next 3.2 innings he allowed just two walks while striking out three. I have more faith that we'll see that Karns going forward.
As for the offense, the five runs were nice but they went 0-7 with runners in scoring position. They were hindered by having only two bench players (David DeJesus and Bobby Wilson) so the ability to pinch hit later in the game was virtually out the window.
Kevin Kiermaier got things started in the third inning with a leadoff triple but was only brought home by a groundout from Steven Souza. With Evan Longoria on first after a leadoff single, Logan Forsythe worked his finest at bat in a Rays uniform. After starting out down two strikes Forsythe worked the count full before smacking a two-seam fastball over the fence in left. As good as that was it only cut the deficit to three. The following inning is the ones the team will be kicking themselves over all night.
A one out double steal by Brandon Guyer and Souza on an 0-2 count put two men in scoring position for Asdrubal Cabrera. The next pitch was eye-level and a few feet outside, but that didn't prevent Cabrera from swinging at it for strike three.
Longoria managed a walk against the flame throwing Kevin Gausman, but Desmond Jennings followed by popping out on the first pitch he saw. Kiermaier's home run to deep centerfield in the bottom of the sixth inning would be the team's last hit of the night.
Let's talk about the bullpen management for a second. In my opinion this will be the most interesting thing we learn from Kevin Cash as a manager. We grew to know how Joe Maddon would handle his bullpen in any given situation. Tonight was the first glimpse of Cash. Let me preface this by saying the bullpen was outstanding. It's the process in which Cash used them that bothered me.
With two on and no out in the top of the seventh inning, and the Rays now down by just one run, Cash brought in Steve Geltz. On opening day Getlz had struck out all four of the batters he faced. That's lovely. This doesn't change the fact that he's Steve Geltz and probably shouldn't be pitching in such high leverage situations when better options are available. After getting Steve Pearce to ground into a force at second, and the left handed Travis Snider at the plate, Cash opted to leave Geltz in the game instead of bringing in the left handed Jeff Beliveau. And it was only during Snider's at bat, in which he eventually walked, that Kevin Jepsen began warming up. The thought of Jepsen facing Adam Jones is a much less terrifying one than that of Geltz. Luckily for the Rays Geltz was able to get Jones to ground into a double play. The results were good, but having Steve Geltz pitch your highest leverage situations probably isn't a smart bet going forward.