The week is done for better or worse, and our beloved Tampa Bay Rays went from hot and infallible ― with their newfound aggressive attack at the plate ― to shaky and uninspired, in what felt like the blink of an eye. While they were able to snare two-of-three from the Mets, before sweeping the Braves, the Rays entered Arlington and laid the equivalent of a flatulent egg against the Rangers. Worse yet, we weren’t even gifted any side-by-side photos of the dynamic buddy duo that is Nolan Ryan and George W. Bush.
What follows is an incomprehensive recap of the previous week in Rays baseball. Monday left us cold and empty, with the first of two scheduled off-days. While some pondered the meaning of life over an Arby’s roast beef sandwich, Ian ― in all of his premonitory wisdom ― wrote about Kirby Yates’ blossoming home run rate. Yates would be demoted back to Triple-A Durham less than six days later.
King Erasmo took the mound on Tuesday, and blanked the Braves over the course of an efficient 70 pitch, seven inning outing. Kevin Kiermaier punctuated the first of two rallies against Atlanta with a two-run seventh inning homer. It was the first time The Outlaw went yard in more than two months.
An interesting note, all 15 MLB home teams won on Tuesday — the first time that’s happened since the league expanded to 30 teams in 1998.
Then down by three runs late on Wednesday, Tampa Bay rallied for six runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk away with a 9-6 win, a series sweep, and the team’s third consecutive series win. At that point the Rays tallied four consecutive wins, and at 58-56 on the season, they left St. Petersburg just 1-1/2 games behind the slumping Los Angeles Angels in the Wildcard race.
The WPA graph not only gave a visual depiction of the ups and downs of that particular game, it also accurately represented my emotional state over a nine inning span. Kevin Cash announced the departure of Joey "he can hit" Butler after the game, as the OF/DH was optioned back to Triple-A Durham in order to clear roster space for OF Desmond Jennings, who would be reinstated from the DL on Friday. It’s just as well, Butler slashed a gaudy .170 BA/.291 OBP/.191/.482 OPS line in 47 July at-bats, with an even uglier 34.5% strikeout ratio.
Another off-day on Thursday left many contemplating the meaning of life over, you guessed it, an Arby’s sandwich.
Friday, bloody Friday, was the start of an ugly three-game series against the Rangers. Some of us chose to drink away the pain from a stinging 5-3 loss, thanks to Steve Geltz and Jake McGee, who combined to give up the ghost. Yet all wasn’t lost, Desmond Jennings was reactivated from the 60 day-DL and went 3-4 with an RBI. Asdrubal Cabrera, who hit in front of Jennings, also had himself a night going 3-4 with a run.
Let’s just say the game Saturday was excellent...if you were a Rangers fan. Texas essentially scored two touch-downs to Tampa Bay’s lone field goal. Chris Archer allowed eight runs (seven earned) on 11 hits and three walks in 5-1/3 innings. Coincidentally, Felix Hernandez threw also threw a dud, allowing 10 earned runs against the Red Sox.
An aside, it might just be me, but I’ve noticed a trend with Kevin Cash. When it seems like a roster move is imminent, Cash gives a player who is tangled up in roster move rumors an opportunity to earn his keep just one last time. It happened previously with Everett Teaford, and this time Kirby Yates had something to prove. He, however, was unsuccessful. Yates first coaxed a comebacker from Prince Fielder, but instead of taking the easy out at first, he attempted to cut down DeShields at home. Sadly his throw sailed well passed Rene Rivera, allowing a run to score. Two pitches later, the always dangerous Adrian Beltre belted a no-doubter to center-field, putting Texas up by nine and sounding the death knell both for the Rays and Yates, who was optioned back to Triple-A Durham (to clear roster space for Drew Smyly) following the game.
Finally Texas handed the Rays their third straight loss on Sunday, as Tampa Bay dropped back under .500 at 58-59 on the season. Smyly made his triumphant return to the mound, yet the lefty was hampered by command issues, specifically with his curveball ― something he attributed to rust.
Nevertheless, Cash was encouraged by Smyly’s outing:
#Rays Cash was pleased overall with what Smyly did and is encouraged he will be better next time out— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) August 16, 2015
General feeling in #Rays clubhouse was they were encouraged by what Smyly did, expect better next time— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) August 16, 2015
Smyly only lasted four innings and allowed five runs, while relinquishing the lead twice. He certainly wasn’t the model of efficiency, averaging more than 20 pitches in each of his four innings, and needing 95 total pitches to get 12 outs. Because Alex Colome took over in the fifth inning, tossing three impressive innings of scoreless ball, the team will will have only five relievers Monday, with the former starter unavailable. Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times), no bullpen move is planned. They’ll head to Houston next for a four-game series with the Astros, starting Monday.