Tonight’s game had some good story lines. There was the return of Nate Karns, who had been part of the Rays’ starting rotation last year. Karns had gotten off to a great start with Seattle but had faltered in his two most recent starts, losing control of his pitches and leaving the games early after giving up many walks and runs. Which Karns would show up — he of the devastating curve and 95 mph fastball? Or the guy who can’t get his pitches over the plate and who inexplicably has something like a .400 batting average against on first pitches?
Drew Smyly had skipped his last start in hopes of figuring out what was ailing him pretty much since the close of April. When he is on he has great control and a good mix of pitches. When he is off he serves up a ton of homeruns. Which Drew Smyly would we see?
OK, I'll admit I wrote that introduction at the beginning of the game, some 5 hours ago. And I promise I'll mention starters' performances, and I'd say they (spoiler alert) were both pretty good. But Karns was gone after 5, Smyly after 6.2, and there was a whole lot of baseball played after they were showered, changed, and for all I know tucked into bed for the night.
In the first inning, both pitchers looked like they had conquered their respective demons, each posting quick innings.
In the bottom of the second, however, we got to see why Karns has struggled. After giving up a well struck double to Steve Pearce, Karns proceeded to lose the strike zone, walking Dickerson and Jennings. Bases loaded, one out, and a pitcher who seemed to have no idea of the strike zone.
But the Rays proceeded to have two awful at bats. Conger was an easy strike out. Mahtook had a long and strange at bat that was both lucky and unlucky. He was lucky in that Seattle first baseman Lee dropped an almost routine pop foul that allowed Mahtook to extend the at bat, but unlucky in that an errant pitch that would have clearly been a ball glanced off his bat, foul, when he moved to avoid getting hit by the pitch. He finally struck out, swinging at ball four.
In the fourth inning,Cano gets on with a squibby ground ball. Up comes Nelson Cruz, who abuses us no matter which uniform is on his back, drives one into the seats and Seattle is ahead 2-0. It was one of Smyly's few mistakes of the night and he paid a high price.
The Rays do get one of those runs back in the bottom 4th. Steve Pearce, who just seems furious at all times and bless him for that — hits a ball that has single written all over it but somehow becomes a triple.He comes home on a Dickerson laser that lands right in the glove of the right fielder for a sac fly.
The Rays tie it in the 6th. The red hot Longoria opens the inning with a double that ends Karns' evening. He moves to third on a ground ball, and that brings up Dickerson, who hits a ball almost identical to his sac fly, but this time it falls in for a single and Longoria scores.
The next six innings
Hits, walks, good plays, bad plays. Lots of stuff happened but none result in scoring. Erasmo bent but didn't break. Colome did his high wire act in one of his rare non-save appearances but no runs scores. Rays also had multiple opportunities but failed to bring a runner across the plate.
Rays have secret weapon
Fortunately for the Rays, there's a new member of the bullpen A-list. Just this week, Matt Andriese was moved out of his starting slot and added to the bullpen. Matt was no doubt disappointed, and many in this community questioned this decision. But for this game, at least, Andriese's presence may have won the game. After the Rays used Ramirez, Colome, and Cedeno, they were able to turn to Andriese and get 2.2 excellent innings, with the knowledge that they could have pushed him even further.
Seattle didn't have a secret weapon
Once the Mariners had used their A-list bullpen they brought in Mike Montgomery, the loser of yesterday's game. Montgomery was far from sharp. The inning opened with a Logan Forsythe smash that he legged into a triple. Tim Beckham, pinch hitting for Miller, was hit by a pitch. Taylor Motter, pinch hitting for Longoria (yes, I really did write that) drew a walk. Up comes LoMo, whose torrid May is now a bit behind him, and who has thus far done little to show up his former teammates. But he hangs in there and, eventually, draws the walk-off walk. Game, mercifully, over.
Reflections at midnight
- The biggie: Longoria was pulled for a pinch hitter with the game on the line. Since nothing could explain his getting pulled in this situation, some of us assumed he had fallen into a coma. No, nothing that dramatic, but apparently he hurt his forearm on a check swing in his previous at bat. Presumably he'll be rested tomorrow and lets hope a little ice will take care of it.
- Smyly was really good. Welcome back, Drew! With his strong start and much better work from Archer and Moore earlier this week, could the starting pitching finally be settling in?
- The 8 and 9 positions had, collectively, about as bad a night as you can have. Conger, Casali, Mahtook and Decker combine for 0-12, with 8 strike outs. Together they leave 13 men on base.
- I'll let others provide some other fun facts:
At 11:27 p.m., or 4 hours, 17 minutes after first pitch, this is officially the longest #Rays game of the season.— Matt Stein (@MattSteinSTF) June 16, 2016
#Rays have struck out a new season-high 17 times tonight.— Matt Stein (@MattSteinSTF) June 16, 2016
Actually they ended up striking out 19 times.
- While the zone was not the completely crazy patchwork of random we saw the previous night, there were a few umpire misses, perhaps none so egregious as this one:
But in the end, here's what matters:
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