The Rays had every opportunity to score a lot of runs, and they only score a few. The Marlins had every opportunity to take the lead, and yet they never did. I had every opportunity to turn this game off and enjoy a day off, but I didn't. Everyone in this situation is dumb and wrong, but the Rays managed to also win a baseball game while being just the worst ever.
Early opportunities to pile on
Although the Rays led for the first half of this game, it still seemed like there were a lot of missed opportunities to score runs. In the first inning, for example, Brad Miller and Evan Longoria both reached base on a hit and walk, respectively. Thunder Buddies Steve Pearce and Steven Souza Jr. seemed poised to collect an early lead, but Marlins starter Tom Koehler managed to corral the free-swingers, stopping the offense early. In the second inning the Rays did manage to score, thanks to an RBI single by JAKE ODORIZZI.
That was Odorizzi's first base hit ever, but not his first RBI. That came earlier in 2014 when he bunted in a run against the St. Louis Cardinals. Both came at excellent times, but in this timeline the Rays left the inning up 1-0.
In the fourth the Rays tacked on a couple more from the most unlikeliest of hitters. On an 0-2 count, Conger lined a ball just past the diving first baseman to score the runners on second and third base. It was probably the biggest hit Conger has hit since coming to the Rays, and it tripled their lead to 3-0.
Odorizzi chugs through a patient Marlins lineup
Jake Odorizzi did, for the most part, an excellent job of mixing pitches and staying ahead of Marlins batters. Although he walked three batters, two of those came on at bats that were seven pitches or more. Odorizzi's main enemy tonight was the pitch count. There were two spots that inflated the number of pitches he had to throw, leading to a relatively early hook. Not necessarily early for the Rays this year, mind you, but early compared to major league pitchers.
In the bottom of the fourth Odorizzi had to work around a weird trick of the shift and outfield positioning. With the Rays set to shift and the outfield playing fairly deep in this cavernous Marlins Park, Giancarlo Stanton popped a ball high up in the air, right in the middle portion of the Venn Diagram of Steve Pearce and Steven Souza Jr.'s ranges. Both men ran for the ball and collided with each other, dropping the ball and planting the dangerous Stanton on second. Odorizzi had to battle the whole inning, walking Marcell Ozuna and J. T. Realmuto to load the bases. After a total of 33 pitches in the inning (25 of which came after the ill-fated error) Odor coaxed a fly out that almost landed in the right field bleachers, but Souza was able to track it down.
Already at the mid-80s through four, Odorizzi desperately needed a quick inning to avoid the dreaded five-and-dive and keep the ball out of the bullpen's hands for as along as possible. It seemed within the realm of possibility when he got the first two outs on six pitches, but Martin Prado was far harder to tame. He worked the best at bat of the night, forcing Odor to tack on another ten pitches to his pitch out before finally walking to first. The Marlins didn't score that inning, but the damage was done, Odor was forced to leave after the inning after his pitch count reached 107. Leaving in line for the win. Jake nevertheless had to feel pretty bad about his inning load tonight. He pitched well, yet had to work around a freak error and a sparkling at bat by Prado.
Welcome to the Rays Bullpen Experience (TM)
Last night Kevin Cash did something silly. After Erasmo Ramirez had to absolutely labor through a very tough seventh inning, with his pitch count on the wrong side of 40, Cash sent the clearest vote of no-confidence to the middle-leverage men in the bullpen he could, sending poor Erasmo out for the third straight inning in the fourth game of a grueling 20-game marathon. Erasmo had already lost a few MPH on his fastball, and lo and behold our favorite fireman promptly gave up a couple of hits to Marlins batters, putting the Rays in a position to lose a game they had every chance of winning.
The next man up, last night, was Enny Romero, who was fooling nobody. Today, with Odorizzi only able to last five, Romero was once again the next man up. Today, he was fooling nobody. In the span of six pitches, Romero faced four batters, and allowed a home run to Giancarlo Stanton (who, I don't know if ESPN has mentioned this enough, is mired in a terrible rut), a double to Ozuna, a single to Dietrich, and a flyout. In what felt like seconds, the Rays lead was cut to 3-2. Romero was pulled for Tyler Sturdevant, a 30-year-old journeyman making his major league debut. Welcome to the big leagues, Tyler! You are now the third-best reliever on the Rays' 40-man roster. If the Rays were smart they'd sign him to a long-term deal right now.
Brad Miller walked to lead off the seventh. Longoria, on a 2-0 count, popped a ball foul for an out. You could see (or, at least, hear Dave and Andy describe) Longo get furious at how he missed an easy pitch. Luckily for Evan, Steve Pearce let him off the hook. While batting, Miller stole second and advanced to third on an error by the catcher. Pearce took advantage and lined a single to left, scoring Miller. Pearce overboogied and got thrown out at second, but the Rays ended the seventh with a much needed additional run.
Xavier Cedeno pitched the seventh inning, and things looked somewhat grim when Cedeno, a LOOGY, faced Stanton, one of the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball, with a runner on first. Luckily, the obvious didn't happen, and Stanton grounded out.
The eighth went far less smoothly. Marcell Ozuna doubled off Xavier and the next batter Derek Dietrich, hit a sky high pop-up, a carbon copy of the one that landed between Pearce and Souza, except to left. Guess what happened this time? Did you guess something different would happen, because the universe is a boundless place where conceivably anything could happen? Nope!
Brad Miller whiffed on the ball and all of a sudden the go-ahead run was at the plate. Cash had seen enough and went to Colome for a six-out save. Colome was up to the challenge, getting a vital first-pitch double play despite allowing a single to left to give the Marlins another run.
After a frustrating ninth where Brandon Guyer overslid the bag at third and wasted a chance to put runners on the corners with one out, Colome stayed in and pitched a perfect ninth, even collecting two strikeouts. #RaysUp 4-3.
The first half of the Citrus Series ends with a split, and the Rays somehow finish this road trip 5-3, even though it feels more like 2-6. If you'll excuse me I'm going to sleep for 100 years.