The Rays’ game plan for today was pretty clear. Jump on the unimpressive Vance Worley early to avoid having to stage a comeback against the Orioles strong, and well-rested, back end bullpen. And keep those Orioles hitters in the park.
Unfortunately none of that happened. While the Rays did scratch out three runs against Worley, it took them a few times through the order to get there. And while Odorizzi didn’t pitch poorly, that 2-out, 2-stike homerun to Machado decided the game.
First two innings
Odorizzi found himself in tight spot even in the first inning, giving up a hard single to Joey "he’s breaking our heart" Rickard and another single pasta diving Miller (not really, Miller didn’t bother to dive). But having the first two guys on base is no biggie, because Chris Davis is up next, right? But Jake buckled down to get Davis, Trumbo and Wieters (the latter swinging lazily at two very outside balls). Crisis averted.
In the second inning, however, Baltimore didn’t waste their opportunities. Alvarez hit into the shift, but hard and deep enough so that "LoFo" was unable to field it easily. His throw to Pearce at first base was off line; Pearce reached for it, ending up in a split that I would not want to try at home, but never finishing the play. Facing Jonthan Schoop, Odorizzi threw a splitter that didn’t split and Schoop hit it hard into deep left field. Corey Dickerson slightly bobbled the ball, and did not make a great throw, so that Alvarez was able to score. 1-0 birds.
Next we were treated to what I believe was the first major league at bat of Hyun Soo Kim, and he memorably hit weakly between the pitcher and third baseman, just in that sweet spot where no one can field it. Kim is safe, Schoop moves to third, from where he is brought home on a sac fly by Joey "rubbing salt in the wound" Rickard.
Next comes a cutter that doesn’t cut to Manny Machado, and suddenly it’s 4-0, Orioles.
Rays get on the scoreboard
Meanwhile, on the Rays side of things….Worley and his 88 mph sinking fastball is producing a lot of bad at-bats. Fortunately Dickerson singles in the second, so at least there’s no risk of an embarrassing no hitter watch. And then in the fourth, Corey "I don’t need no stinkin’ Coors" Dickerson launches one into the bleachers to give the Rays their first run. 4-1.
They Rays manage to make it a game in the 5th inning. LoFo starts with a hard hit single, and he is moved to second with a LoMo ground out. He takes off when Longoria makes contact, so he is able to score easily on Longo’s single. 4-2.
Next up, Dickerson appears to ground out to end the inning, but Wieter’s glove has grazed his bat, and the catcher interference call brings him safely to first base. Steve Pearce therefore gets an at bat, which he uses to line a single that scores Longoria. 4-3.
At that point Showalter pulls Worley, and reliever Brad Brach gets Miller to fly out to end the inning.
OK, Rays are on a roll! And meanwhile, Odorizzi has settled in, with better command, throwing four scoreless, and pretty uneventful innings until he is replaced by Erasmo Ramirez in the 7th.
But come up short
The Rays even manage to mount a real challenge in the 8th, facing the very difficult Darren O’Day. O’Day strikes out our hero Dickerson and gets Steve Pearce to pop up.
No doubt all watching assumed the inning was pretty much over as Brad Miller, he of the .000 2016 batting average, stepped up and was quickly at 2 strikes, flailing at some stuff pretty high up in the zone. But he manages to foul a few off, each swing looking slightly less clumsy than the one before, and then he smashes one off the right field score board, a double that was just a few feet short of a home run. O’Day then seems to have trouble with the strike zone, which was a bit of a moving target all day (see below), walking Souza and then walking Kiermaier. In Kiermaier’s at bat, ball four was clearly a strike, but that’s OK because strike two was clearly a ball.
With bases loaded, Cash decides to pinch hit for Casali, going with the switch hitting Conger who on paper provides a better match up against O’Day. But Conger clearly has no clue how to read O’Day and strikes out on a pitch so far inside it could have hit the backs of his legs.
The Orioles tack on an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th. Machado (of course) hits hard into the left-center alley, and while KK manages to close a lot of ground and almost make a play, he can’t snag the ball, which falls for a double. A ground ball moves Machado to third, and then a Trumbo grounder is fielded for the second out. It looks like the Rays are going to escape the 8th with just the one run deficit.
But then Ramirez throws one that bounces off the plate. Machado (of course) alertly dashes home, Conger’s throw to the late-covering Ramirez isn’t close and it’s 5-3, which seems destined to be the final score of all of 2016. The Rays are able to do nothing against Zach Britton, he of the 97mph sinking fastball.
Anything to feel good about?
It’s still early enough in the season that we can parse a close loss for glimmers of encouragement without seeming too pathetic, so here are a few:
- Odorizzi didn’t have a terrible outing. He really missed on two pitches that got punished by Orioles hitters, and he was unlucky that some weak grounders didn’t get fielded.
- Our very own Big Swinging is doing what we hoped he’d do.
- Erasmo has been pretty effective going two innings from the pen.
- LoMo has gone from striking out on three pitches most at bats to striking out on 5 or 6 or more pitches. Hopefully better at bats will at some point produce positive results.
- Brad Miller's at bat against O’Day was impressive. Let’s hope for more of that.
Some other thoughts:
Are the umpires in this crew competing to see who has the least consistent strike zone? Darby marveled at Mike Estabrook's calls on Friday. Let’s take a look at Dana Demuth’s from today, courtesy of Brooks Baseball
The strike zone he called against left handed hitters seems to bear absolutely no resemblance to the actual strike zone. Are these guys hoping robot umps will replace them?