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Rays vs. Orioles, game one recap: Alex Colome dominates the Trop

In the bottom of the innings.

El Caballo is back.
El Caballo is back.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, the Baltimore Orioles played a home baseball game in St. Petersburg. The "away" team won, which made me happy, but really, the outcome of the game was pretty unimportant. The real story was the location.

The game was moved to Tampa Bay because a significant number of our nation's citizens decided that the govenment, and paricularly the justice system, is not protecting them or serving their interests. These citizens believe that they are unable to effect the changes they deem necessary, due to either the ignorance or the apathy of the majority, so they were moved to protest—mostly peacefully, but in some cases violently.

A protest is not like a baseball game. You do not pick a side and root. Rather, a protest is a wakeup call. When the Orioles play a home game in Tropicana Field, it lets us all know that something is wrong.

The city of Baltimore has given us the privilege of watching three extra home baseball games. In return, we have the responsibility not to be ignorant and apathetic. We are charged with helping to figure this thing out, and with making our nation work.

Do not debate how to do so in the comments (nothing we say here will matter, so save it for your representatives in local and state government, and for your friends and associates). Just be mindful of why the game was played where it was, and be aware of our privilege and of our responsibility.

The Game

Chris Tillman's first three innings were perfect. A few Rays got bat to ball decently, but there was also a lot of swinging under Tillman's big-rising fastball for soft flyouts. That changed in the fourth inning when, with two outs, Asdrubal Cabrera took three straight balls, took a fastball right down the middle, and then was rewarded when the next fastball missed low and away. That broke up the perfect game, and brought  Evan Longoria to the plate.

Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson are fond of pointing out Longoria's gaudy career numbers against Tillman, and while matchup statistics are rarely meaningful, Longo had hit the ball hard (but right at someone) in his first at bat, and he did one better with his second try. He jumped on a fastball on the down-and-in corner of the zone and lined it hard and just above the glove of a leaping Manny Machado. It got to the wall in left field in a hurry and scored Cabrera from first. James Loney was up next, and he patiently worked a full count before getting a good look at a backdoor curve that stayed high, and lining it the other way to plate the second run.

That was all it took. Alex Colome used only 60 pitches to complete five scoreless innings. Despite being allegedly allowed to throw 90 pitches tonight, Kevin Cash pulled him from the game rather than let him face the Orioles order for a third time. It sure seemed like an early hook, but the Rays bullpen stepped up with Brandon Gomes, Steve Geltz, Kevin Jepsen, and Brad Boxberger all working fairly dominant innings.

Alex Colome

In any other situation, Colome would have been the lede. He was remarkable. He stepped in with good command of four distinct pitches and laid claim to a starting spot. This was not the Alex Colome of two years ago, who flashed an electric fastball-changeup combo with a cutter mixed in, but who would or could no longer throw his highly-touted curve. The fastball still rose, and the changeup still fell, but the curve was back, and the cutter—which was always somewhat along the spectrum to being a slider—was a few mph slower, which put it more squarely in slider territory.

Here's the movement from the catcher's view:

The fastball (pitches at the top of the graph) averaged 94 mph, and topped out at 96 mph. The changeup (bottom left of the graph) was ten miles per hour below that at 84 mph. Colome's cutter (the clump with between zero and 5 inches of run) averaged 87 mph, and the curve was at 78 mph.

I was actually really impressed with how Colome's cutter and curve worked off each other. Much like Drew Smyly's breaking-ball combo, they start out looking identical but then break differently as they arrive, and have even more velocity separation than most fastball-changeup pairings.

If you haven't watched the game, and have access to, go watch the bottom of the fourth inning, in which he struck out the side (with the side consisting of Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Steve Pearce). It's a perfect representation of how good Colome could be.

  1. He sets Jones up with fastballs high in the zone and then puts him away with a curve that falls off the table beneath the zone.
  2. He sets Davis up with a backdoor slider that should have been called strike three and puts him away by freezing Davis with a fastball over the outside corner.
  3. He sets Pearce up with a 95 mph fastball in on the hands, and then puts him away with a filthy 88 mph cutter moving off the outer edge of the plate.
The point in all this is that Alex Colome pitched today like a starter, and if he can continue to pitch like this, he'll remain a starter for a long time.
Some other notes:
  • Todd Kalas told us during the broadcast that Grant Balfour has signed a minor league deal, and will report to Durham. Good for Balfour. I think we're all rooting for him.
  • Brandon Guyer got picked off first in the fifth inning but the umpires missed the call, and the Orioles didn't challenge. Then he tried to steal on the next pitch and was thrown out by about as much as you'll see a fast guy thrown out. Nice job by Chris Tillman and Caleb Joseph.
  • It's official. Steven Souza Jr. has dome power (he hit a foul ball off some part of the roof that was allegedly in foul territory).
  • Brandon Guyer chopped the ball to shortstop-in-third-baseman's-clothing Manny Machado two times, and he got infield hits out of both of them. That's unusual. The first time, Machado made a great barehanded pickup but Guyer still beat the throw. The second time Mahcado could not complete the pickup as he charged.
  • Sometimes, Souza really looks like a rookie. Like when he swung about a foot above a filthy first-pitch, down-and-inside righty-from-a-low-armslot-on-righty Darren O'Day changeup, and clearly made a face that said, "Okay, so there are guys like him who do things like that up here."
  • El Caballo is pretty fast running to cover first base. I'd be curious to see a Chris Archer–Alex Colome footrace.
  • Today the Orioles played Delmon Young in right field and Steve Pearce in his first-ever game as a second baseman. We all know that the Rays are a team that's willing to trade offense for defense, but the Orioles are clearly willing to make that trade in the other direction when they think there's value to be had.
  • The game took only 2:19.
  • Todd Kalas noted that Baltimore was shading Longoria to the gaps, and that that was different. Todd Kalas is kind of the man.
  • According to the gameday algorithm, Brad Boxberger threw ten fastballs, one changeup, and eight curves. What?!? Well, MLBAM is right on this one. Boxy was pounding the curve in the high-70s , and it was filthy. His fastball-changeup combination is so good that he does not need a curve. But apparently he has one.

I'm going to end this by making a bold prediction (do you get to call a qualified prediction bold?). If Boxberger can consistently command this third pitch, he will be widely regarded as the single best relief picher in baseball within three years.

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
4 mattc286 And in honor of Colome, who was right on for his first start of the season:
3 myrealnameischarliedaniels Eh, I don't mind Colome getting the early hook...
3 npolackw Wow
2 mattc286 What's even more amazing is he's running in the Kentucky Derby tomorrow
1 mattc286 Rays ahead of the curve again!
1 Passionate Apathy In the spirit of this game, I will be posting over at Camden Chat.
1 Grimesy22 _
1 JRTW612 Nice. I like it when the sports team I like beats the other sports teams.
1 mattc286 One more
1 magicrays Bauers HR #4 on the season
1 essenpee Because it's cheap as fuck?
1 Well it's not as funny when you spell it out like that
1 JRTW612 Anyways, I'll be rooting for Grant
1 Brett Phillips If we've learned anything it's that fans make the games longer