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Rays 2 Tigers 10 : Taylor Motter makes pitching debut

VfB Stuttgart v Eintracht Frankfurt - Bundesliga Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images

So, the Rays lost tonight.

Normally writing that would depress me, but not tonight.

You see, their Friday night loss — their historic 9th inning meltdown — was so awful that merely losing in somewhat ordinary fashion doesn’t seem worth any emotional energy.

First part of the game

Drew Smyly and Tiger’s pitcher Michael Fulmer traded zeros for the first three innings, both looking sharp. In his recent starts Smyly has been best in the early innings; it’s that second time through the order that seems to be his downfall.

And that was sort of the case tonight. In the fourth inning he allowed a lead off single to Cameron Maybin, who is closing in on Howie Kendrick territory among “guys who the Rays can never get out.” He stole second, and although Smyly got outs from Cabrera and Martinez, Nick Castellanos drilled a double into the left field corner to score a run. Tigers lead, 1-0.

Tigers put it out of reach

The Tigers scored twice in the fifth, in large part thanks to the Rays defense. Brad Miller committed a throwing error that put Mike Aviles on first, and he stole second base.

Pretty much every ball after that seemed to find Oswaldo Arcia in right field, which is a very undesirable outcome. Jose Iglesias hit a ball to shallowish right that Arcia semi-dove for but could not catch. Because Avila had to see whether it would be caught he only got to third base on the hit, putting runners at the corners with one out. Ian Kinsler was up next, and his fly by to right seemed plenty deep enough to score Aviles from third. He, for some reason held up, and Arcia’s throw was impressively strong and might have gotten him.

That brought up our nemisis Maybin with two outs. He hit a foul fly ball into the Rays bullpen area, and Arcia gave chase, but overran the ball and failed to catch it. Of course Maybin took advantage of this second change, with a grounder up the middle that scored two runs. 3-0 Tigers.

The Foxsport cameras captured Smyly’s return to the dugout when the inning ended, as he threw his glove in frustration -- whether at himself or the underwhelming defense behind him.

More Tigers runs ensued in later innings, including one on a Smyly wild pitch, three on a Victor Martinez home run yielded by Sir Farquahar and three on another Victor Martinez run home off Enny Romero — food for thought for those who wished these two had been brought in to staunch the bleeding in the 9th of Friday night’s game.

The Rays avoided the shut out with a Brad Miller two run home run in the 9th. But apparently even the Tiger’s b-list bullpen isn’t about to blow a ten run lead

Concluding thoughts

  • Smyly really wasn’t bad. although his walking four gave the Tigers a lot of free chances, and also pushed up his pitch count. He did strike out eight, getting most of his strikeouts early in the game, and induced fairly weak contact. The problem is that a “pitch to contact” approach only works when you’ve got professional fielders behind you.
  • Detroit rookie pitcher Michael Fulmer was outstanding, with near perfect control, a great mix of pitches, and the ability to induce ground balls that all seemed to get hit more or less right at infielders. His final line was 2 hits, 1 walk and 10 strikeouts over 7 innings
  • Surely the highlight of the night was a relief appearance by Taylor Motter, who has taken the concept of the utility player to new heights. He is, Dewayne informed us, the 6th position player in Rays history to take the mound. Throwing 75-80 mph pitches that Gameday decided were change-ups, he gave up a bloop single and got the last out of the 9th with a fly ball to Brandon Guyer.
  • Of all the things that have gone wrong this year, it’s the sub-par defense that makes me saddest.