The big news in the run-up to this game was that scheduled starter and Angels ace Garrett Richards will need Tommy John surgery. That meant that the start would go to 28-year old Cory Rasmus, and that the Angels would lean heavily on their bullpen.
Logan Forsythe, didn't waste any time. He lined the second pitch he saw to straight center field. Mike Trout had to go straight back, and his route was shaky, with a a little stumble as he tried to correct his angle. He got his glove to the ball but couldn't hold it, and Frosty had himself a double.
Forsythe promptly made himself annoying, taking big leads and prompting a throw over, a look back, and finally a balk, which moved him to third with one out. That mattered, as Evan Longoria hit a fly ball to the warning track in left to score Forsythe for the game's first run.
The Rays offense then piled on. Steve Pearce sent a grounder through the hole past third, and Steven Souza Jr. showed his discipline in accepting a five pitch walk from a pitcher who had momentarily lost control. That set the stage for Corey Dickerson. Rasmus tried to bust him in with a 0-2 fastball, but didn't get it far enough inside. Dickerson pulled in his hands and turned on it with power, hitting slightly under the ball and giving it a ton of backspin. It was an odd no-doubter, that didn't have much height but also wasn't pulled hard on a line. Rather, it floated to about the 8th row back in right field.
In the third inning, the Angels broadcast (no Sun Sports tonight) interviewed GM Billy Epler. That was so fascinating for them that they completely failed to notice Brad Miller leading the inning off with a home run. After a Longoria groundout, Pearce walked and Souza pulled a grounder through a curiously-large hole (were the Angels either playing him straight up or slightly to ground one the other way?) on the left side of the infield.
Mike Sciosia didn't allow Dickerson to face Rasmus again, so he pulled his young starter at 45 pitches and brought in a lefty, starting the Angels' bullpen day early.
Archer made it through six scoreless innings, scattering five hits while striking out six batters. He walked two in back to back at bats in the fourth.
The stats were decent, but this was yet another start from Chris Archer where he wasn't able to hit the level he consistently pitched at last season. His fastball ranged from 91 mph to 95 mph (lower than his peak), and his control went in and out. He did throw some very tight sliders, and some decent changeups as well, but he also hung a few sliders and wasn't punished for it.
This is what we've seen from Archer for much of this season. His stuff is still very good, and he's become a pitcher with moxie beyond his years, so he's able to turn in good-enough outings even when he doesn't have his best stuff.
But yes, this was once again a start where Archer didn't have his best stuff.
With 99 pitches thrown through six innings and a 5-0 lead, Cash replaced Archer with Steve Geltz. Who promptly turned it into a game. Geltz got a fly out, but then walked the eighth hitter, Carlos Perez. Cliff Pennington singled. Geltz got the second out by striking out Yunel Escobar, but he hit Daniel Nava in the leg to load the bases.
For Mike Trout.
Two good fastballs, low in the zone, got Geltz up in the count, but then he nibbled, and Trout refused to get himself out, accepting an RBI walk and bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Albert Pujols.
Cash had seen enough of Geltz, and he sent in his all-purpose option, Erasmo Ramirez. The first pitch was a high fastball, hit the other way to the warning track in right. All five of the Rays fans still awake gulped hard before breathing again.
Erasmo stayed on to pitch the eighth inning, and gave up a run two hits: on a double that Souza ran down but couldn't hang onto, and a grounder up the middle.
Alex Colome closed out the ninth in dominating fashion.
It Didn't Have To Be A Scare
The Rays had opportunities to break the game open. In the top of the third, with the bases loaded and two outs, Kevin Kiermaier grounded straight to Cliff Pennington, the second baseman. Pennington had plenty of time, but he threw wide of the bag. C.J. Cron made a great stop, though, diving to his right while keeping his foot on the bag to get the inning-ending out.
The Rays had another chance to put the Angels far behind them in the fourth inning, as they hit three singles to load the bases with no outs. But a pitching change brought Javy Guerra in to face three righties in in Longoria, Pearce, and Souza, and he got all three. Longo looked the worst, striking out swinging without making Guerra throw him a single strike.
Some other notes:
- Right before the start of the game, scheduled home plate umpire Tom Hallion had an emergency personal issue and had to pull out. The start time was delayed until 10:15 while the umpiring crew sorted things.
- Archer gave Rays fans something of a scare himself in the fourth inning by losing his command and throwing eight straight balls to walk Pujols and Calhoun. He was able to lean on his slider to strike out the righty Cron, and after that command seemed to return. Simmons grounded to third (Rays got the out at second) and then tried to steal second, but Casali threw him out to end the inning, and it wasn't particularly close.
- In the fifth inning, Brandon Guyer, the master of getting hit by pitches, was hit by a pitch. This one was totally legit, though. It was wild, up and in. Guyer shielded his face with his arm as he tried to hit the deck, and the pitch got him squarely in the triceps. Later on, Guyer was hit by another pitch. The second HBP was a Guyer special, where he made no attempt to get his arm out of the way.
- In the top of the seventh, Souza hit a double. Good. Then, a pitch went into the dirt. It bounced a few feet away from the catcher, Perez, who seemed to not be able to find it. He may or may not have been baiting Souza, and when Souza, after waiting a beat, took another couple steps off the bag, Perez found the ball in a hurry and caught Souza in no man's land. Souza eventually decided to go for third. The throw was there, but Souza's slide beat the tag. That is, until he slid off the other side of the base. The Rays challenged, but the out call was upheld. As Souza trotted back to the dugout, Cash gave him an extremely cold look. Not pleased.
- During the slide, Souza's shoe not only came off the bag, but also came halfway off his foot. I think Montoya was freaked out for a second, worried that the Rays' glass outfielder had badly broken his ankle.
- Brad Miller had four hits, including his home run. Souza and Guyer both got on base three times.
- The Rays forced Los Angeles to use six pitchers, so that might set them up for success later in the series. On the other hand, I imagine Kevin Cash would have preferred not to use Erasmo Ramirez or Alex Colome today, but Geltz's faltering seventh inning forced him to turn to his frontline relievers.
- Not going to lie. I can't wait for this guy to be out of the league.
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