Tampa, October 2, 2:00 pm. Today is the final game of the regular season, and the end of daily baseball for those of us whose teams failed to make the post season (or the play-in game to get to the post-season).
Going, sadly, for the loss
As a fan, it goes against every impulse to root for my team to lose. But a win today would mean nothing to the Rays, whereas a loss could contribute to improving their draft standing for 2017, possibly by several slots. So for probably the first and hopefully the only time in my life: Go Rangers!
May today’s game be injury free, have noteworthy individual performances by a few marginal guys for whom it matters, and may the Rays ultimately come up short.
A line-up likely to succeed (in getting that loss)
I don’t think you can put guys in the line-up and ask them to play poorly, so the key to losing this game is putting a weak team on the field. And in that regard the Rays are off to a good start. That bottom three of Casali, Maile and Decker should seal the deal.
And of course we are without Kiermaier in centerfield, and we all know how well that works out. So thanks, Colby Lewis, for being such a thin-skinned narcissist that you needed to throw a 90 mile an hour fastball at the leg of a guy whose big sin was trying to get on base against you. Even we “safe spacers” (credit to Brian Anderson for providing me with my favorite new phrase) are accepting of whatever retribution came to your team after that bit of immaturity.
Anyway, back to the line-up: the pitching match up doesn’t look too promising for the loss, at first glance. Chase Whitley has looked very strong in his TJS comeback. Thankfully he is likely to be limited in his pitch count, and we all know that the Rays have plenty of bullpen guys who know how to let a game get away from them. Martin Perez for the Rangers has had a very uneven season, mixing high quality starts with bad stumbles, such as his recent 8-run game against the Brewers. So no guaranteed shut down there.
3:30 So wouldn’t you know it? The line-up of Shaffer, Ramirez, Casali and Decker combine a double, two singles and a sac fly and end up with 2 runs. Mid second inning, Rays up 2-0.
3:45 A few ground ball singles off of Whitley and the Rangers get on the board. 2-1 Rays.
4:00 For unknown reasons, Texas seems intent on losing this game as well. The third inning opens with an error on Elvis Andrus, putting Longoria on first base. With two outs, Alexei Ramirez singles him over to second, and a walk and Maile infield single lead to another run. Rays 3, Rangers 1.
4:16 Rangers pull Andrian Beltre out of the game in the top of the fourth, giving him a rest, allowing him to end the season with a .300 average, and providing an opportunity for a standing ovation. He’s awfully good and deserving of the applause.
4:25 Jonathan Lucroy hits a solo homerun, making this a one run game.
4:40 Ryan Garton replaces Chase Whitley, who pitched 4 innings of effective but hardly dominant baseball. He manages a scoreless inning in part thanks to a rather acrobatic Mikie Mahtook catch in center.
5:03 Eddie Gamboa takes over pitching duties
5:15 By the 7th, the Rangers have replaced nearly all their starters. Losing this game won’t be easy. Longoria reaches first on a strike out/wild pitch, and then Profar fails to turn a text book double play, airmailing a throw to first and allowing Dickerson to advance to second. A walk to Richie Shaffer brings up Alexei Ramirez, whose single scores Dickerson. Ramirez, playing for a 2017 major league contract, has little interest in tanking for the Rays, and is now 3 for 4. But he does manage to run the Rays out of the inning, so mid-7th it’s 4-2 Rays.
6:00 Detroit loses to the Braves 1-0, which means that Detroit will not earn a wild card, and the Braves have clinched a better record than the Rays.
6:10 Congratulations to Matt Moore, who pitched 8 innings of 3 hit ball to give his team the second NL wild card slot.
6:11 Brad Boxberger doing his part, walking 4 and thus yielding a run, making it 4-3. Boxy’s 5.7 walks per 9 innings (prior to today’s game) speaks to a lack of control across this injury-riddled season. As Brian Anderson noted, even when Boxberger was simply trying to throw strikes, he was missing badly. But Danny Farquhar came in for the inning ending strike out.
6:34 Colome is in for the Rays and gives up a lead-off hit to Jared Hoying. The well struck ball looks good for extra bases, but Hoying trips rounding first and settles for a single. If the Rays goal today was a loss, Texas -- with two errors, two wild pitches, and several base running blunders, has not helped.
6:38 Chirinos hits a deep single, so the Rangers have runners on the corners with none outs. With two strikes on him, Hanser Alberto pushes a ball just over the infield for a single, and the score is tied. As much as the loss helps, I didn’t want it to come by way of a blown save by Colome, one of this year’s only bright spots.
6:45 Colome manages to get out of the inning, giving us the worst possible outcome: extra innings in a mostly meaningless game.
6:50 Hits by Richie Shaffer and Alexei Ramirez start the 10 inning -- we get it, Alexei, you really want someone to sign you for next year. Runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Another Texas wild pitch, and Shaffer strolls home with the go-ahead run. Curt Casali follows with a double, and it’s 6-4 Rays.
7:10 Erasmo Ramirez pitches a perfect 10th, Rays win. In so doing they end up with the 4th rather than the 2nd 2017 draft pick.
Good-bye and good riddance 2016 season. May the Red Sox lose their division series in three.
And for those who celebrate, L’Shana Tova, and here’s wishing for better things for the 5777 Tampa Bay Rays.