Saturday's game against the Oakland A's had so much potential: A first-place Rays team taking on a last-place A's team that was led on the mound by an under-performing pitcher, a night after the Rays took Oakland pitchers deep thrice. But a friend of mine once told me, "Potential just means you ain't done crap, yet."
The defense was on point Saturday afternoon -- until the sixth inning when the wheels came off the wagon, though there were three plays that really stood out.
The first was Nick Franklin's heads-up play on a single to right in the third inning by A's shortstop Marcus Semien. On a play that most second basemen would have given up on as a base hit, Franklin flagged the high bounce about 15 feet into right field and quickly threw it to the waiting James Loney. Semien beat the throw, but only by a step and the creativity and mental presence of Franklin on that play were the highlight. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him, both defensively and offensively.
The second was Rene Rivera's subsequent gunning down of Semien on the attempted steal of second. Rivera actually made two great throw on stealing runners, but Asdrubal Cabrera was unable to handle the first one. Rivera's second strike was an absolute rifle shot, on the money, beating Semien by at least two steps, catching the speedy shortstop on the base paths for the first time all season.
The third was the rocket line drive snared by Logan Forsythe, covering the hot corner while Evan Longoria got a day of rest by pulling DH duty. Forsythe was positioned perfectly as Billy Butler smoked a liner that was destined for the outfield - until Forsythe leapt and caught it at the peak of its flight. It was a top-notch play, and earned him a smile and nod from Longoria in the dugout.
I know I'm beating a drum that keeps getting played here, but Forsythe has been outstanding. He's successfully played first, second, and third base thus far this season, and I don't think I'm stretching for a point to say he'd play a fine corner outfield as well. Between Forsythe and the recently demoted Tim Beckham, I think the Rays may have two budding super-utility guys that could really play above average on both sides of the baseball both this season and for the near future.
It all fell apart in the sixth inning when Nathan Karns had runners on the corners with two outs. Kevin Cash went to the bullpen for Xavier Cedeno, who had not allowed a run with the Rays yet this season. After getting up 0-2 to Eric Sogard, he allowed an RBI single to him, giving the A's the 1-0 lead. Cedeno walked the bases loaded, then gave up another single to Sam Fuld to center. Two runs scored on the hit, then another scored on the two (count ‘em, two!) errors on the same play, as Kevin Kiermaier couldn't pick up the ball in center, but threw a laser to the plate that would have beaten the runner, if not for Rivera's catching error that sent the ball dribbling up the first base line.
The offense. There was nothing inspiring watching the efforts at the plate on Saturday, going up against a soft-throwing rookie right-hander a night after putting three dingers on the board against a (relatively) tough lefty less than 24 hours prior.
Kendall Graveman took the hill for Oakland and was less than impressive. His fastball topped out at 92 and his breaking pitches showed depth, but often broke into the Rays' batters' swings - or what should have been Rays' batters' swings. Graveman left many a pitch in very hittable spots for both righties and lefties alike; however, as Brian Anderson pointed out, the batters wanted to "gather information" on the pitcher the first time through the lineup. The problem was they left opportunities all over the place.
Cabrera's struggles continued at the plate and, at this point, it's getting painful to watch. He wore the collar, taking home the strike out hat trick Saturday. The only thing more painful was Dewayne Staats's ill-advised Star Trek attempted reference in the seventh inning. That was bad, Dewayne, real bad. . .
The only threat the Rays managed against Graveman was in the bottom of the sixth, when they got two men on with one out. Loney followed with a fielder's choice, giving the Rays runners at the corners. Forsythe battled back from being down 0-2 to 2-2 and then to what should have been 3-2, except a pitch under his hands was called for strike three.
Tampa Bay did manage to load the bases with two outs in the ninth with local-product Tyler Clippard on the mound to close out the game for the Athletics. Naturally, Joey Butler struck out on three pitches to end the game.
The "Meh," (Shrugs Shoulders)
This whole category goes to Nathan Karns because he was just, well, meh.
He worked 5 2/3 innings and only struck out two batters, while giving up seven hits and a walk. It took him 100 pitches to work less than six innings. That number wouldn't be excessively concerning if he had struck out more batters, but he only managed two. His velocity wasn't anything special and the movement on his breaking pitches was less than what we're used to, especially since he was given 10 days between starts. It's worth the discussion of whether that amount of time off broke his momentum and caused his lack of effectiveness.
My Two Cents
- I don't want to say this was a game the Rays needed to win, because it is still May -- we've not even hit summer yet (despite what the thermometer outside says). But the New York
GeriatricsYankees lost again Saturday and the Rays could have enhanced their division lead to 2 1/2 games. It's a game we definitely should have won, as a division leader playing a last place team with an untested starter, but come September, if the Rays are down to the Yankees by two games or less, this is going to be one of those games you want back.
- The bright side in that statement, though, is the Yanks lost - again! They've dropped five straight and got absolutely demolished on Saturday. That at least made me smile.
- Enny Romero had a decent seventh inning, a subpar eighth inning, and a good ninth. It was his first major league action in over a year, and only his second career appearance in The Show.
- David DeJesus was the lone shining spot for the Rays. He got on base four times Saturday, with two hits, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. He's pretty good.
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