The Tampa Bay Rays wrapped up their home/away series at Tropicana Field, with a 4-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. Previous to that game, Tampa Bay was 8-0 when leading after six innings and 6-1 in series finales. Yet all of that changed in the sixth and seventh innings as the bullpen allowed four unanswered runs.
Nathan Karns, who sailed through five scoreless innings on just 66 pitches, was not charged with the loss, nor should he have been — Karns was excellent, scattering a pair of hits and a walk, while fanning four.
The decision to pull Karns was a contentious one; there wasn’t any evidence to suggest he may have been running out of gas. On the contrary, the righty told the media he "felt fine," following with, "I would say it’s the most pitches I’ve executed in a game, you know working ahead… things along that (line)."
A specific point at which he'd be pulled from the game was unknown to him, and Karns allowed that the decision was based one simple philosophy: hitters do better the third time through the batting order. It was the same strategy used with Alex Colome on Friday.
Is this a trend we should be following? "They're in charge of making those calls," Karns said, "and I’m just there to do my job and pitch."
The blowback was almost instantaneous. Reactions ranged from reasonable, acknowledging this was probably a rookie mistake, to those that hinted at shades of Maddon-esque over-managing:
Kevin Cash rookie coach showed today very questionable calls on his decisions??? Gotta say he lost that game today #Rays— Tom (@str8smak) May 3, 2015
I cannot wait till Kevin Cash realizes that switching relievers every batter/putting them in 4 innings everyday is gonna kill the pen. #Rays— #ThankYouJoe (@Archer753) May 3, 2015
Credit the skipper for owning the lapse in judgement — Cash conceded that he may have pulled Karns too soon, saying: "It's on me." But if the decision works, that's on him too.
Look at the bright side: Tampa Bay is about to start a three-game series against the under-performing Red Sox, which precedes a four-game set against the sub-.500 Texas Rangers. If all goes well, we won’t even remember this game seven days from now.
— Required reading: Nathanial Grow (FanGraphs) wrote an interesting piece on the declining share of overall league revenues despite growing television revenues, and more efficient front office decision-making.
— Tommy Rancel wrote about the intriguing return of Alex Colome.
— Oh hey, part two of the pitch sequencing article at the Hardball Times.
— This, folks, is but one reason there (thankfully) will never be an acrimonious rivalry between the Rays and Orioles:
— Progress people, progress: