For six and a half innings, this game was really fun. Then Kevin Cash ruined it.
The Fun Part
After the Rays went quietly in the top of the first, the Twins threatened in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Torii Hunter plopped a soft line drive into shallow left center. Joe Mauer grounded softly to the right side but through a hole, and Torii Hunter immediately went for third. Steven Souza Jr. had no chance to throw Hunter out at third, but he tried anyway, allowing Mauer to dig for second. With two men in scoring position and one out, Jake Odorizzi had to bear down, and he did, striking out Trevor Plouffe with a high fastball, and then escaping the inning with another weak ground ball that did not, this time, find a hole.
The Rays offense rewarded Odorizzi for his calm effort, when with two outs in the top of the second, Phil Hughes threw a fastball right down the middle to David DeJesus, who did what he should and took it out of the park to right. That hit brought DeJesus's career tally against Hughes to seven hits in eleven at bats with two home runs, according to the broadcast.
With the Twins now trailing, Kennys Vargas lined hard over first base for a double. Odorizi got up 0-2 to Aaron Hicks, but then missed outside with three consecutive pitches, before finally striking him out with a full-count changeup. Daniel Santana also worked the count full, and also was put away swinging on a live split-change at the bottom of the zone.
Brian Dozier brought the Twins back even in the third inning by jumping on a high fastball. Dozier has a quick bat, and it looked like he had no trouble getting on top of the fastball, which was just about where Jake wanted it. Not a terrible pitch, so tip your cap on that one.
In the fifth inning with one out, Joey Butler doubled off the wall in right field. After Rene Rivera made an out, Kevin Kiermaier popped a bloop into short left field. It really looked like Eduardo Escobar should have been able to make a play on it, but instead he decided to try to play it off the bounce. Butler was running all the way (because there were two outs) and he scored easily without a throw. It was an odd sequence, but I'm sure the Rays will happily take the run.
Joe Mauer led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a swinging bunt down the first base line. Odorizzi sold out trying to field it, and when he couldn't get there on his dive, that left no one able to cover first, even though James Loney successfully fielded with enough time to make a throw. Trevor Plouffe hit a hard line drive right at Asdrubal Cabrera, but it was too hot for the sure-handed Cabrera to handle, and it bounced off his glove and into right to put runners at first and second. It was marked as an error, but that's a pretty harsh decision by the scorekeeper.
Odorizzi worked out of the jam, aggressively attacking the bottom of the zone with his splitter, and was rewarded with popup to short, and a flyball into short left field. He then made a nice fielding play to knock down a comebacker on the mound and throw the runner out at first
The Missing Hook
I don't know why Jake Odorizzi was allowed to start the seventh inning. Cash had Gomes warming during the tense moments of the sixth, so we know he was thinking about pitching changes. Odorizzi was up around 100 pitches, and the Rays have been very successful partly because they've aggressively used their bullpen rather than let their starters be overexposed.
Also, Jake McGee just came back, so this team theoretically has one heck of a bullpen.
But instead of turning innings seven, eight, and nine over to the back of his 'pen, Kevin cash kept Odorizzi out there in a one-run game. Aaron Hicks singled on a line drive to left field, and Danny Santana drove him home with a well-struck line-drive triple into the right-field corner. The very next batter, Brian Dozier (marking the start of the fourth time through the order) brought Santana home with a fly ball into short center.
That was the winning run. That's all it took. That's why Cash should pull his pitcher before he gets into trouble—not because it was clear that Odorizzi didn't have it, but because that late in the game if the good bullpen guys are available, they're a better bet than the starter.
By the way he's managed previous games, it's clear that Cash knows this, so it's especially frustrating to see him get burned by not following his own pattern. There's no guarantee that if Kevin Cash manages optimally, the bullpen doesn't give up the lead. But he did not manage optimally, and his starter did give up the lead, so this one is on the manager
Some other notes:
- The ballpark in Minnesota really does look nice.
- In the bottom of the second inning, Joey Butler was unable to run down a foul fly ball that Desmond Jennings would have surely glided to. Butler has done well, but it really would be nice if we could get DJ back one of these days.
- Speaking of Butler, he did play a pretty nice game, singling on the twelfth pitch of one at bat and doubling off the wall to opposite field in another.
- The Twins made Jake Odorizzi work early, working multiple full counts and fouling off pitch after pitch, forcing Odor to throw 61 pitches in the first three innings.
- Logan Forsythe drew a walk in the bottom of the fourth inning against Phil Hughes, who only walked 1.9% (16) of the batters he faced last season.
- Apologies to Nancy Austin, but I don't think that "Kevin Kier-flyer" is especially funny.
- In the seventh inning I noticed Asdrubal Cabrera choking up on his bat. Does he always do that?
- Jake McGee did not pitch.
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