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Rays ? Red Sox ?: Isn’t a Score Just a Number?

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New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

As the Rays sink deeper into last place and farther below .500 there’s not much left to play for. One of the few opportunities for joy, however, is seeing the Rays stand in the way of Boston’s post season hopes.

So far this year, as badly as things have gone for the Rays, they have still managed to play pretty well against Boston. Coming into this series they were 4-2. They had twice beaten -- pretty badly beaten — Boston ace David Price.

But even that slim reed of accomplishment evaporated this weekend. The Rays were swept by the Red Sox, and lost the getaway game, 4-0.

The Game

Sunday’s game didn’t have some huge meltdown or head scratching error. Largely it left me thinking about how true those baseball cliches can be. It’s a game of inches. These teams had somewhat parallel performances, but one team emerged with four runs and the other with none.

Both Price and Odorizzi were shaky in the first two innings. Both settled down thereafter and there were few baserunners past the third inning. Price had the better line — 8 innings, 10 strikeouts, one walk, two hit by pitch (LOL); Odorizzi went just 5 innings with 4 strikeouts and one walk. But that’s why Price is an ace who will be making millions until he’s nearly 40 and Odorizzi is a middle of the rotation guy.

The difference, however, is that during those shaky innings, the Rays didn’t score, while the Red Sox wracked up four runs. To be sure, Price is good: he could get the strikeout or double play ground ball when he needed it. But also: Rays hardest hit balls seemed to carom of that damned wall right into the hands of outfielders, so that extra base hits became singles (or outs, in the case of a Casali hit in the 2nd).

A Red Sox bloop, in contrast, fell into no man’s land for an RBI single.

Bad luck is hardly the only factor behind the Rays poor showing this past month, but I do think that some unlucky bounces can make a middle of the road team look like a terrible team.

Rays pitching: Not terrible.

Odorizzi was OK. In some of his recent outings he has fallen behind a lot of hitters and walks have contributed to his miseries. This time he only walked one. Brian Anderson and the Process Report had noted Odorizzi’s tendency to avoid pitching inside, especially to righties, and how that was making him too predictable. But to my eye at least he moved pitches around the zone, and did not avoid the inside part of the plate. He certainly missed with a few pitches that got tagged, but some key Boston hits came on pitches that weren’t really mistakes. The first inning Pedroia double came on a low outside pitch that didn’t seem like it could be hit for extra bases. Betts’ RBI single in the second was a bloop that found a spot between three fielders (OK, one was Arcia, but it was still a lucky hit).

Andriese and Colome were better than OK, combining for three scoreless innings. Andriese struck out five.

Some final observations:

  • Guyer gonna Guyer
  • I was surprised to see neither Beckham nor, especially, Souza playing against the lefty Price, who I assumed to be a lefty-killer. When I checked Price’s stats, however, I saw that the splits are not nearly as dramatic for his recent performance as I’d thought. I still would think that Souza would be a better choice than Arcia given his better defensive tools. As it happened, Arcia also looked badly overmatched at the plate.
  • I know many love the quirky individuality of baseball fields, but I think it is really odd that Fenway Park gets to call itself a major league park. The first inning Bogaarts sac fly was a relatively shallow fly out to the right fielder...that came within feet of being a 200 foot home run to that “Pesky Pole.” The so-called Green Monster completely distorts the game. I might be less irritated about all this if Boston fans and media weren’t the first to dump on Tropicana Field the two to three times a year that a catwalk interferes with a fair ball.
  • This first half of the season has been a letdown for Rays fans. But, for better or worse, there is still a lot of baseball to be played. Maybe we can still see some noteworthy performances, check out some prospects. And maybe we can at least manage to win a few against the Red Sox.