The Tampa Bay Rays took to the road on Monday with their sights set firmly on collecting their first winning road trip since June 17-21, when they took four of five from the Nationals and Indians. They also set out with an opportunity to get back to .500 and then some. The Rays were unsuccessful in both endeavors, and ended the road trip with a 3-4 record after being chewed up and spit out by the unrelenting Blue Jays.
This isn’t to say the past has been uneventful ― far from it.
Joe Maddon’s Chicago Cubs clinched their first playoff berth since 2008, while the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, and the aforementioned Toronto Blue Jays punched their tickets to the postseason as well. Now if the Houston Astros could hurry up and finish their dance with the Texas Rangers...
No all was lost. There were three promising games on the Rays road trip, all of which came at the feet of the Boston Red Sox. But first, we bounce back to St. Petersburg...
Meanwhile on the field, Mikie Mahtook hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning and Matt Moore recovered from a tough start to fan seven as the Rays beat the Red Sox 5-2.
Moore threw an incredibly inefficient 32 pitches in the first inning, but he settled in and hurled 5-2/3 innings of scoreless baseball from that point on. The lefty didn’t walk another batter, and collected seven strikeouts, while scattering seven hits. Topping out at 96 mph multiple times throughout his start, the lefty racked up 17 total swings and misses with his four seam fastball (5), change up (6), and curveball (6).
Word also broke why Nathan Karns hadn’t taken the mound of late, and the righty was shut down for the season due to right forearm tightness.
Per Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times),
Both Karns and Rays manager Kevin Cash said they are confident the issue is nothing serious and said that at a different point in the season he may have pitched through it. But after Karns went through a 20-pitch session early Tuesday afternoon, the decision was made to be cautious and allow him more time to rest and not risk further injury by having him make another start.
A pair of former teammates took the hill against one another on Wednesday night, yet Rays hurler Drew Smyly prevailed over Boston’s Rick Porcello. The Tampa Bay Rays broke open a close game late en route to a 6-2 win over the Red Sox.
Smyly worked around three walks and an HBP, to go along with five scattered hits. He fanned seven in his fourth scoreless start of the season ― the second in as many starts against Boston.
Additionally, the scoreless start gave Rays starters their 31st scoreless outing of the season ― the most in the Majors after leading the Majors last season with 32.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Tampa Bay is just the second club in Major League history with 30 starts in back-to-back seasons when the starting pitcher was not charged with a run.
Erasmo Ramirez took the bump in the series finale with Boston and put up another gem. And though he gave up two Red Sox runs in the first inning on a David Ortiz homer (his 36th homer of the season and 502nd of his career), Ramirez settled down and did not allow another runner beyond first over the next six innings ― ultimately retiring 18 of 20 batters faced.
Erasmo has now thrown at least seven innings in three straight starts for the first time at the MLB level. He enters the with an 11-6 record and a 3.65 ERA/3.82 FIP/2.2 WAR line. Not bad for a hurler who was referred to as "assmo" by some of this site’s readers at the beginning of the season.
The weekend series against Toronto was a weekend of disappointment. The team played like the Devil Rays, although we got a sense of what’s to be expected out of the Blue Jays in the playoffs. God help whoever they may face. You can recap that shellacking here:
- Jays 5, Rays 3: Toronto too much, by whelk
- Jays 10, Rays 8: The anti-pitcher's duel, by nomo
- Jays 5, Rays 4: Mercy won't this end?, by Hatfield
One last thing
When you’re feeling disappointed about the black hole that is/was the 2015 season, just remember at least we don’t have to watch the bravado fest that is Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon. The two volatile players exchanged words before their spat came to blows in the dugout.