It is absolutely impossible to write a meaningful recap for a game in mid-June.
Towards the beginning of the season you’re free to wax poetic about the wonderful game that you’ve come to love.
"Oh, the game of games has returned!, just as spring has bloomed and the harsh bite of winter has faded away," I might say, if I was Robert Frost or if I worked for Lookout Landing. "And with it comes the eternal optimism that never quite leaves us, no matter what masks we wear! Anything can happen in baseball, and it most assuredly will! Oh what a time to be a baseball fan! Also the Rays lost 8-5."
By the end of the season, you get those narratives. Ahhhhh, those narratives. You love ‘em, I love ‘em, they’re just so comforting.
"With a week left to go, it’s a mad race to the finish for first place. The Royals, still coasting off of their all-Blue All-Star Game 16-0 shutout win, finally clinched first place of the AL Central, beating the Red Sox who are having their worst season since baseball was played with gloves. Steven Souza Jr. races his way towards the record books for most strikeouts in a season, while still belting 30 homers in his rookie year. It’s an all-out sprint to the finish for the Rays, neck-and-neck with the Yankees for control of the division. Everything is so damn fast nowadays! And it’s only getting faster! Oh, what a time to be a baseball fan! Also the Rays lost 8-5."
These are fun to write about. They’re easy to write about. Well, not for me. None of this is easy for me. But for a competent writer they’re easy to write about.
These games? They’re impossible.
The Rays lost today, and it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a game in June. Matt Andriese pitched! He probably won’t even be in the rotation once Odorizzi and Moore (and Smyly? Do I dare hope?) return! This isn’t representative of the true talent level of this team.
It doesn’t mean anything! Of course, every game means something. They all count the same. April = June = August = September when it comes to games. But still. It’s too early to scoreboard watch. Sure, the Yankees lost tonight, so the Rays lose no ground. But who cares? It’s not even the All-Star break! You can’t overreact to this.
But it’s so easy to, isn’t it? It’s easy to see a surging Blue Jays team and worry about them rattling the cages of the division. It’s so tempting to look at Matt Andriese, MLB Starter, and feel that existential dread I’ve heard so much about. Maybe you look at Evan Longoria, hitting cue shot singles and sending fly balls not overly deep, and you wonder where that power went, or what’s gonna happen if this wrist thing doesn’t get better. Team’s in first place, and you’re already freaking out about a two-game losing streak. What’s wrong with you?
So let’s sort of agree on this: The (still) first-place Tampa Bay Rays lost a potentially winnable game today. I feel like they beat themselves a little bit, but that’s just my personal opinion. Matt Andriese couldn’t solve Toronto yet, and the Rays found a couple different ways to lose tonight.
Things looked so good in the third. Two quick outs and you sorta think that it’s one of those rollover, don’t-do-nothin’ type of innings. But then Kevin Kiermaier swings at a ball well out of the zone, sticks out his little butt, and plops one into center. The ball I mean. Joey "He Can Hit" Butler, too, rolls a ball right past Jose Reyes. He really should have knocked it down, or something. Maybe if it was five years ago. But instead it rolls past him, into center as well. Longoria manages to collect his first hit of Hutchison with the aforementioned cue shot to right, scoring a run, as did Logan Forsythe. The quick 1-2-3 inning for Josh Hutchison turned into a disastrous 38 pitch affair. Had the Blue Jays lost, this’d be the inning you’d point to.
"Oh," you’d say, from your recliner, drinking what is most likely your third artisanal local ale of the night, "poor Hutchison. The Rays scrapped and gritted their way into a lead they never looked back from. Young pitcher, probably just lost his composure out there. Can’t get massive amounts of run support every game. Oh well." Then you’d surf the internet for a couple hours until it became too much work to stay awake, and you’d fall asleep right there in your couch.
But of course they didn’t. Matt Andriese gave up a home run an inning to tie the game, and then in the sixth, Cash made the questionable decision (I questioned it, therefore it was literally questionable) to leave him in for the third time through the order. Andriese rewarded his vote of confidence with a bomb to left by Joey Bats. Belisario entered in relief, but the Blue Jays wouldn’t stop until they lead 7-3.
Games like this, couched between the beginning and the end, can’t be squared away within some grand narrative. It’s too early and too late to have meaning. It is the forgotten middle child of the season, games that are often lost in the deep memory pit. What did you have for lunch three Thursdays ago? This game.
In absence of easy meaning, it becomes necessary to forge your own meaning. Was this an exciting game? Well, the Rays lost, so probably not. But did they come close? Did they make it interesting?
Spurred by a leadoff Forsythe homer, the Rays fought back in the seventh. Souza tripled, but Nick Franklin and Jake Elmore struck out, endangering the rally. Rene Rivera, of all people, had to come through. His triple scored Souza, and the Rays scored a couple of runs to narrow the gap to two. So there’s something there.
But in the eighth, Enny Romero botched an easy pickoff throw to first, sending a runner to third with two outs who was promptly hit in. It more or less took the wind out of my sails. Not even the eighth inning, where the Rays loaded the bases with one out, could get me going. Souza Jr. struck out on a pitch off the plate, and Nick Franklin swung and missed at a pitch way off the plate, that if he had done nothing at, would’ve walked in a run. Oh God it’s frustrating. But hey, what’re you gonna do? Cry about it? The Rays lost 8-5.
People also want satisfying endings to things, but sometimes you can’t get them.
Roll Call Info
#TheOneTrueKing, AndrewTorrez, Brett Phillips, Brian Andersbot, DFAHowell, Danny Russell, Darby Robinson, Drew Laing, Hatfield, JRTW612, Ken Grant, Landlord, MakeitRayn, Mister Lizzie, MrWizzle21, Noles95', Pocoroba, Rays Fan in NC, Rays1118, barnecles, faceforst, kapaafire, kfharlock, killa3312, magicrays, nomo.red.evil, npolackw, raysfaninminnesota, stingraypete, swampchomp7, tb_throwaway, the dobber, thedudeofdudes, witty, youcancallmeRayRay