First, the important stuff.. Kevin Cash won his first challenge. In the top of the seventh inning, Logan Forsythe bounced a throw to first, and Loney bobbled the scoop, letting it pop straight up out of his glove. He reached up and re-caught the ball, but the runner was called safe. The video clearly showed that Loney had established control before Adrian Beltre's foot had reached the bag, Cash challenged, and the call was overturned. The crowd gave a standing ovation, and Rays players ran down the tunnel to congratulate video coordinator Chico Fernandez. Pop the corks. We goin to da ship.
The Rays offense didn't waste any time. Brandon Guyer took the first pitch, a fastball on the outer edge of the plate, and lined it back up the middle for a single. Steven Souza Jr. worked a seven pitch walk to set the table for Evan Longoria on his bobblehead day. Guyer stole third, and Souza trailed into second on a wild pitch, but the shenanigans on the basepaths proved to be only window dressing, as Longoria grabbed hold of a fastball at the bottom of the zone and looped it straight back and over the center field wall for a three-run homer.
The Rangers pulled two runs back in the top of the fourth inning. Matt Andriese seemed to be cruising. He got the first out without incident, and induced a groundball from Kyle Blanks. Asdrubal Cabrera ranged far to his left and dove to make the stop, but but he wasn't able to get enough on the throw from his knees to beat Blanks, who was running hard to first. That brought up Carlos Peguero, and at first, everything seemed under control. Andriese jumped ahead 1-2, with the second strike coming when he fooled Peguero badly on a slider. Then he threw another slider, this one at the bottom of the strike zone but over the heart of the plate, and Peguero went for it. The location and the golf-ish swing were eerily similar to Longoria's home run. Brandon Guyer drifted back, and I thought the the fly ball would be an easy out well short of the warning track, but then Guyer just kept drifting until he reached the center field wall and could drift no further. That put the score at 3-2. Andriese got one more out, but Robinson Chirinos doubled off the wall to force a pitching change.
Kevin Cash brought in Brandon Gomes to face the righty Adam Rosales. That's Gomes's job. That's what he does well. But he pitched away from contact a bit too much, letting the count reach full, and then was done in by a frontdoor slider that didn't break. That meant he had to face the lefty Shin-Soo Choo, but he coaxed a groundout by finding the outside corner of the zone with his splitter.
Gomes stayed in to start the fifth inning as well. He struck Elvis Andrus out swinging on a splitter, but then came up against left-handed slugger Prince Fielder. Gomes hung a splitter on the outside, and Fielder was all over it, lining hard to the right-field wall. A good play on the carom by Souza held Fielder to a single.
Normally I would be strongly against letting a hitter like Fielder face Gomes in a one-run game, but manager Kevin Cash wanted his righty-specialist to face Adrian Beltre and Kyle Blanks, who were up after Fielder Gomes showed why. He produced a soft but perfectly-placed groundball out of Beltre, and while Cabrera made a great diving stop to keep the ball on the infield, there was no chance of getting either runner with the throw. Gomes struck out Blanks, and then gave way to Steve Geltz, who struck out the lefty Peguero to end the dangerous inning.
The Rays Extend
Rene Rivera led off the fifth inning with a walk to turn the Rays lineup over for the third pass through. Guyer, who seemed to be seeing the ball well today, lined a sharp single through the left side to end Ross Detwiler's day. Anthony Bass was brought in to face Souza, but he grooved a fastball, and Souza caught hold of it well, sending a no-doubter down the left-field line for the second three-run homer of the night.
Asdrubal Cabrera homered in the eighth inning to achieve the final score of Rays seven, Rangers two.
With the Rays comfortably ahead, Cash turned things over to just-called-up rookie Andrew Bellatti for his first major league appearance. Bellatti completed three and a third innings, and did well, allowing only one hit and one walk while striking out two Texas batters.
Bellatti couldn't quite finish off the game, and Brad Boxberger was called in for the save, but don't hold that against the rookie. In the ninth inning, he walked Chririnos, and gave up a single to Choo with a pretty good changeup that found a hole off the end of the bat. Bellatti should have gotten out of the jam when he produced a double-play ball that Tim Beckham misplayed to load the bases for Prince Fielder, causing Cash to opt for his closer.
So, what should we think of Bellatti? He seemed composed and he attacked the zone with all three of his pitches.
The clump in the top left of this chart (we're looking from the catcher's view) is actually two different pitches. There's a low-to-mid-90s fastball, as well as a mid-80s changeup. The two pitches have very similar movement, and it seemed to me like Bellatti had good arm action on his changeup. He certainly needs that to create deception, because the changeup he showed today wasn't that impressive on it's own (it really didn't drop very much, and it ran horizontally a smidge less than his fastball did) or in comparison to the fastball (the speed differential between the two was under 10 mph).
His slider has decent downward movement, but it's also slow, averaging 82.3 mph.
Bellatti used all three pitches effectively, and he seemed particularly confident in his ability to spot the changeup on the outside edge of the zone to lefties. But he also missed some of his spots with the fastball, and he gave up a few hard-hit fly balls. And I don't think he has the stuff to survive many mistakes against major league hitters. Mostly I thought he looked like a 23-year old who has barely gotten his feat wet in triple-A. He's not here now because the Rays want him to be. He's here because enough pitchers have been injured that no one else is available.
I'm happy to watch the rookie, but for me at least, he doesn't tantalize and hint at a bright future the way Alex Colome did when he broke onto the scene two years ago. My guess is that Bellatti eventually ends up as a decent reliever, although probably not a great one. But pitchers improve, and Bellatti has plenty of time to develop into something more than he is right now.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Asdrubal Cabrera knocked a one-out double. With Beckham batting, Chirinos made a snap throw to second and Cabrera dove back in. With Cabrera's hand on the bag, Adam Rosales made a hard tag on Cabrera's wrist, and then sort of fell over, placing his other forearm on Cabrera's shoulder and shoving downward. Cabrera took exception, hopped up, and shoved Rosales, getting in his face. The umpires quickly separated them, and both benches cleared.
It was totally understandable for Cabrera to be upset, as the tag was very physical, and the shove could have been taken as malicious (a slightly different angle on the elbow could have meant bad things for Cabrera). It was not actually malicious. Rosales was simply a bit clumsy on the play, and I think the two of them were able to come to an understanding on the field, while, oddly enough, the Rangers challenged the play and the replay took a full seven minutes before the safe call was confirmed.
Of course, Cabrera then got caught off second by a sharp grounder that went behind him, and Tim Beckham was picked off first base to end the inning, so the safe call on the odd challenge really didn't matter.
Later on in the game, Bellatti hit Chirinos in the arm in a 2-2 count. It was a pure and simple miss. It was not payback for this play. Even Later, Spencer Patton grazed Joey Butler's arm with a fastball up and in. It too was not payback.
Some other notes:
- After Shin-Soo Choo drew a leadoff walk in the first inning, Dewayne Staats referred to him as "Chen." Come on Dewayne, you're better than that.
- Before Longoria's first-inning home run, Brian Anderson said that Longoria's hitting style matched up well against Detweiler's pitching style. Good call, BA. You can feel good about that one.
- PhantomCam is cool.
- I really wish that the broadcast would quit going on about how good James Loney is against lefties, and citing batting average to do so. Using wRC+, Loney was good against them for one year with the Rays (2013) in under 200 PAs (meaning that it doesn't mean a ton), and he has a long and convincing track record of not being good against them both before and after that year. I'm not even arguing that he should be platooned, because with this team's current configuration he should not, but I want us all to stop pretending that this is a matchup to be happy about.
- I don't want to make it seem like I don't like Loney. I like him rather a lot. But in the first inning, after Asdrubal Cabrera made an athletic attempt at a double play but threw short of first, Loney failed to make the scoop. It wasn't necessarily an easy scoop, but it was very make-able, and in fact it bounced off the heal of Loney's glove. I'm simply pointing out that sometimes Loney misses those plays, because whenever someone else misses one, people talk about how that's why you need a Real First Baseman (TM). Yes Loney is an excellent fielder. Yes, if you put a utility infielder there you probably lose a little something on defense. But how much exactly? That's the important question.
- Loney did make a pretty excellent scoop in the fourth inning.
- Cabrera was a double short of the cycle.
- All three of Cabrera, Souza, and Longoria reached base two times in addition to hitting their home runs.
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