It was a chilly Boston night clearly not intended for baseball, and not much went right for the Rays.
Chris Archer has had, to say the least, a shaky start to the season. Here at DRB we don’t care much about pitcher wins so let’s forget about his 0-3 record. But coming into tonight, his 5.87 ERA, 1.957 WHIP and 5.86 FIP, all suggest something is off. The only part of his stat line that in any way looks familiar is his 13.5 strike outs per nine innings, but since he hasn’t been able to get past the fifth yet, most of us would probably be willing to lose a few of those strike outs for great efficiency.
Baseball is hard, with tiny misteps in mechanics leading to poor outcomes, and poor outcomes leading players to overthink, overthrow, and just generally make things worse for themselves. We might have hoped that tonight would be the night that Archer got his groove back, and we’d see the sharp slider mixed with the 96 mph rising fastball placed just so.
But that’s not what happened.
Red Sox Strike First
Archer’s fastball control was off. He walked three in his 4.1 innings and managed only 8 first pitch strikes. His rising fastball was head height, tempting few swings. His sliders either bounced a foot before the plate or didn’t have nearly enough movement. And the Red Sox hitters jumped on him quickly.
He opened by walking leadoff batter Mookie Betts. Pedroia singled on a slider that just sort of sat there. A Bogaert single scored Betts. So now no outs, 2 on and guess who is coming up. David Ortiz batting is my least favorite sight in baseball. Of course he doubles, scoring two additional runs. 3-0. And it could have been worse, had Logan Forsythe not made a diving stop of a Brock grounder that looked like it would go through for a hit.
The Red Sox second inning didn't go much better for Archer. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit one hard off that stupid wall, and Kevin Kiermaier had to do some fancy little dance to field it somewhat cleanly, keeping the runner to a double. But it didn't much matter because in the next at-bat, Archer left a juicy fastball over the plate and Mookie Betts got all of it for a 2-run home run. 5-0.
Meanwhile, the Rays must be pounding poor Rick Porcello, right?
Well, maybe not. He certainly wasn’t dominant, but he was just good enough. Like Archer he seemed to be in a lot of deep counts, but somehow managed, once at 3-2, to put batters away (he struck out 9). His change-up seemed to work well enough that Rays hitters were often late on his 90 mph fastball.
In the third inning the Rays finally got the all-important first hit, as Souza led off with a ground ball to deep short. It looked as though the Rays might have a small ball rally going as Kiermaier followed up with another infield hit, but a replay showed that he was out by a half step. Souza moved to third on the grounder and a steal but it was for naught as Conger popped out and Forsythe struck out.
Teams trade runs
Archer managed to avoid too much further damage. He didn’t manage any clean innings, however, and did allow Boston to tack on a 5th inning run on a Bogaerts single and Ortiz double. 6-0.
The Rays did finally scratch out a few runs. In the 6th inning Forsythe tripled on a ball well struck to the deepest part of center field, and came home on a Longoria ground out. Corey Dickerson’s solo homerun made it 6-2 and provided maybe the tiniest flicker of hope that they Rays could climb back into the game.
But in the next inning, the Red Sox strung together a few singles and a stolen base against Ryan Webb and making it 7-2. The Rays did manage one more run off of Porcello, making it 7-3, but then were unable to do anything against Tazawa and Ramirez, who closed it out.
Any Silver Linings? Nah.
Were there any positive developments in this game? Well, Conger did get his first Rays RBI, although it wasn’t overall a great night for him. He looked pretty bad striking out twice; failed to throw out any runners (which is at least partly on the pitcher); and seemed to get a lot of balls hit hard into his face mask, poor guy.
Those watching for signs of life from Logan Morrison will note that he did draw a walk. Getting toasty! Otherwise, BSD and KK were pretty much the offense.
There are nights when the Rays scoring three runs makes for a competitive game. This just wasn’t one of them.
A random thought: I don’t doubt that Mookie Betts is on his way to becoming quite a ballplayer, but Brian and Dewayne’s slurpfest got irritating. But maybe a game like this makes everything seem irritating. Generally I like the fact that our TV guys are not big "homers" and can appreciate good baseball wherever they find it. As long as they are not finding it on the Red Sox.
There is plenty of room for complaint about this offense. But tonight’s story: Archie needs to get right. Jim Hickey, please do your thing.
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