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Rays vs. Nationals, game two recap: No one can pitch

But Elmore and Franklin flash potential

Can you spot what's wrong with this picture?
Can you spot what's wrong with this picture?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As the game started, it was instantly apparent that Alex Colome's command was poor. He was missing often, mostly with fastballs, mostly armside. He got out of the first inning unscathed, despite allowing two baserunners and a hard-hit out, but the lack of command bit him in the second inning, starting against Clint Robinson. Two fastballs and a cutter all sailed too far outside. That put Colome in a count where Robinson could expect a fastball, and he clearly was. When the fastball came down and in, Robinson jumped it, blasting to right field for the first run of the game.

  • It was good to see Alex Morgan out there. It's not just that she's fast. Sydney Leroux is also fast. But Morgan's runs are much more intelligent and piercing.

The Nationals seven and eight hitters both bunted for base hits—not because of bad plays by the Rays; just good bunts to where the defense wasn't—to put two runners on with no outs.

  • That being said, I'm not sure how fit her bone-bruised left knee is. Over and over she found the ball on her left foot and needed to make simple crosses, but nearly every time she scuffed it. An odd showing.

Ian Desmond struck out, but Denard Span worked a walk to load the bases for Rendon. Full count. Walk. Score: 2-0.

  • I think that Jill Ellis is overmanaging. After having Megan Rapinoe play fairly straight up in game one, she's gone to great lengths to relieve her of defensive duties in games two and three. Against Sweden, Ellis's idea was to simply not have Rapinoe track back on the left wing, and to instead send Lauren Holiday back and to the left from her spot in the center of midfield when the U.S. lost the ball.

Yunel Escobar. First pitch fastball. Grounder through the hole. Score: 4-0.

  • Nigeria has a very fast and dangerous right winger in Asisat Oshaola, so that strategy was never going to work (I'd argue that it didn't really work against Sweden, either). Instead, Ellis swapped Rapinoe to the right wing where she wouldn't need to cover anyone and brought on Tobin Heath to chase and cover on the U.S. left.

Colome continued to miss. Against Harper, he tailed his changeup off and below the plate several times en route to another walk. Bases loaded. Pitchount: 49. C.J. Riefenhauser stars to warm.

  • I hated it. I think Rapinoe is more comfortable finding the game from the left. I think Heath is more comfortable on the right. And anyway, Rapinoe is a complete player. She's willing and able to play defense if you ask her to. Moreover, there's more than one way neutralize a threat like Oshaola. Of course you can assign someone to chase her. But the other way is to make her chase you. Rapinoe is a better player than Oshaola, so don't shy away from the matchup, Jill. Let your best player assert her dominance.

Wilson Ramos stepped into the box and stood there while he was gifted three strikes. Colome got the fourth pitch over for a strike, and got the fifth pitch close enough for Ramos to swing and hit a sac fly to right field. Score: 5-0.

  • I mostly think that Tony DiCico is a tactical dinosaur, and I don't much care for his analysis during a game, but he was right about the positive effect swapping the roles of Holiday and Carli Lloyd had. I think Lloyd being "the better number ten," as DiCico said several times, is only part of the picture, though. Neither of those two are defensive midfielders, but they can both be box-to-box players. And whether it was by chance or by design, I thought that the real gain in the middle (and yes, there was improvement, even if it still wasn't a smooth midfield) came from both players moving more fluidly up and down the field, as opposed to sticking to a narrow assignment like they had in the previous two matches. Both Lloyd and Holiday are experienced, intelligent players, so let them figure it out.

Robinson, who had started the inning with a home run many minutes and paragraph breaks ago, hit a fliner into the alley. Kevin Kiermaier covered enough ground to make a diving attempt at ending the inning, but the ball bounced off his glove. That allowed Escobar to score from second, but Kiermaier recovered quickly and got the ball into the infield, and Forsythe's relay caught Harper trying to score from first. Score: 6-0. End of inning.

  • I had three games I wanted to watch: the Rays baseball game, the USA soccer game, and game 6 of the NBA finals. I chose two and decided to trust Lebron to bring me a game seven. Shucks.

The second inning was bad.

  • I will be pissed if winning our group draws us France in the first knockout game.

It took a long time.

  • I'm getting a Julie Johnston jersey. She's really good. One of those defenders who proactively and athletically exerts their influence over a wider area of the field than what they're explicitly tasked with. She's gotten caught by a few runs in behind, but that just looks like a lack of experience to me. She'll age well, and the jersey will be a great investment (women's soccer jerseys are usually great investments).

That's because Alex Colome takes lots of breaks between pitches to do things that are not baseball, especially when things start going poorly. Riefenhauser relieved him to start the third, and while I'm generally against starters only being able to complete two innings, I was happy to see the Riefer. It meant I could get back to watching baseball, without all the annoying pauses.

Riefenhauser pitched well, coasting through (mercilessly quickly) the third and the fourth inning, but he hung a breaking ball on the inner third to Harper, who hit it clear over the Rays tank. He then walked Clint Robinson, and that ended his night having pitched two and a third innings.

Enny Romero came in and allowed two well-hit base hits plus a weirdly high chopper to run the score to nine. Next up, Span hit a sinking liner into left field that David DeJesus had easily covered, except that he didn't. He must have lost the ball because he completely whiffed on the catch (and made a series of horrible faces while doing so), earning an error. That allowed the tenth run. The Rays finally got out of the inning when Rendon flied out to short right field, and Ian Desmond, strangely, tried to tag up score. Steven Souza Jr. threw him out at home easily.

I'm going to stop recapping this game now and jump ahead. Enny Romero allowed more runs, and the Rays scored a few, thanks in large to a double and a homer from Rene Rivera. It didn't become interesting again, though, until Kevin Cash decided he was done burning his bullpen in a lost cause, and turned things over to Jake Elmore and Nick Franklin.

Elmore

Jake has some decent cross-fire motion in his delivery, making his 84 mph fastball get on hitters quicker than you would think an 84 mph fastball would. He tried to climb the ladder against the first batter he faced, but Wilson Ramos was able to keep his swing short and compact and took Elmore's fastball out to center field.

He was able to climb the ladder again later in the inning to produced popup, which, as you may know, is a repeatable skill. His other outs came via a fly out to the outfield and a groundball

Elmore did allow an infield hit when he failed to cover first on a ground ball up the first base line, which is ironic seeing as he had been covering first for a majority of the game.

Here's what he threw. Data is from Baseball Savant, pitch classifications are my own.

ElmorePitching

Elmore threw four distinct pitches, and his four-seam fastball, while only 84 mph had very significant rise on it. As has been well document, the Rays like to have their pitchers throw rising fastballs up in the zone. It burnt Elmore on the home run, but I don't expect him to go away from the strategy.

Jake's sinker has plenty of drop compared to his four-seam, and his changeup is more than 10 mph slower than the fastball, but the real revelation is that curve. he only threw two of them, but at 70 mph they had tremendous horizontally sweeping action. If he can locate the pitch, I expect Elmore to destroy righties with it.

We won't have enough data to positively identify his platoon split for a while, though.

Franklin

Nick also hides the ball well, although his delivery has some unnatural arm whip to it. I'm not sure if he can sustain a delivery like that. I definitely wouldn't like to see him forced into a starting roll (better claim Dillon Gee).

Like Elmore, Franklin also coaxed a popup, with his coming against Joe Ross. Joe Ross is a pitcher. The Nationals countered our position player pitching with one of their pitchers pinch-hitting.

NickFranklinPitching

Franklin was far more fastball heavy than Elmore, and one can see why. He actually got the fastball up to 91 mph, and he topped out at a ridiculous 14 inches of rise. That's a fastball that would play very well out of the bullpen. I'd recommend he drop the two-seam entirely and focus on that four-seam.

I also wasn't very impressed with his secondary pitches. There was one pitch that might have been a cutter, and one pitch that was really probably a changeup but that I've labeled as a screwball, because it was slow enough to be one and because screwballs are more fun. At 74 mph, that's a lame duck screwball, though. Don't get too excited.

We Rays fans know that it's possible for a reliever to get by throwing nothing but fastballs, but Franklin's isn't quite on the same level as Jake McGee's. He's more of a Steve Geltz figure than a McGee one. He'll need to find a second pitch if he wants to succeed at the major league level.

Some other notes:
  • Todd Kalas interviewed Stu Sternberg during the third inning. Stu seemed fairly comfortable behind the mike, noting a poor defensive effort from Harper and pausing to root for good things to happen. Sort of fun. He did note that the Rays had an unexpectedly poor infield defense last year. He also said that he thought for the Rays to be sitting in first place after all of their injuries was more impressive than the 2008 run.
  • Tanner Roark barehanded a hard chopper back up the middle off the bat of Joey Butler. It was a pretty impressive play.
  • Romero was pulled in the seventh inning after a conversation with the training staff. It appeared that it was the catcher Rivera who noticed a problem with his young pitcher's mechanics and was calling for the swap.
  • Bryce Harper was a triple short of the cycle when he was pinch hit for. That's no fun.
  • The Nationals closer, Drew Storen, came on to close a 16-1 game. He gave up three runs.
Roll Call Info
Total comments 86
Total commenters 21
Commenter list Adam Sanford, AndrewTorrez, Ben Tumbling, Brett Phillips, Brickhaus, DFAHowell, Darby Robinson, Edged, GZ1, JRTW612, Pocoroba, Rays1118, kapaafire, lizzieray, magicrays, nomo.red.evil, npolackw, stingraypete, tampagator, thedudeofdudes, turntwo21
Story URLs
# Recs Commenter Comment Link
3 stingraypete Just wait until a HR kills one of the rays in the rays tank
1 Pocoroba If we come back Franklin is in line for the win.
1 AndrewTorrez all we need is a bloop and a blast and it's all good
1 JRTW612 Yeah, at the pace Colome pitches, and the rate he (wasn't) getting outs, Cash may have just pulled him because he was concerned they were gonna miss their flight
1 Brett Phillips Also in case all you losers who let a little DRB down time drive you away didn't notice