I'll be honest. Getting Rays baseball back didn't exactly feel like Christmas morning this year, but it was still hard not to get a little excited. There is some joy in the routine of a daily baseball game. The 7:10 first pitch each weeknight with the occasional matinee game thrown in creates sort of a daily rhythm of baseball background music.
Then Chris Archer trotted out to the mound. And he started giving up monster home runs again. And the Rays gave up another late lead again. The excitement I'd felt before quickly passed and was replaced by familiar frustration.
In a season where, at this point, it is better for this team to lose than win, it is time to look for other storylines to follow. These might be smaller, more personal storylines; a beloved player comes back from injury (yay KK!), an eagerly awaited prospect makes his debut or a much-maligned hitting coach finally gets sent packing as an olive branch to a frustrated fan base. We'll keep an eye out for these as the season continues, and I'll try not to let my frustration be a black cloud over my writing each time.
Ok, back to it. The never-ending story of why Chris Archer is bad at baseball in 2016:
That's actually not fair. Chris wasn't terrible at all. He gave the Rays 7.1 innings, while giving up just seven hits and one walk while striking out six. The problem was that two of those were massive home runs, and one was about an inch away from being one.
The Rays struck first in the opening frame. After a Logan Forsythe single and walks from Brad Miller and Logan Morrison loaded the bases with one out, Steven Souza knocked a weak grounder to first base to score Forsythe and put the Rays up 1-0.
Tampa Bay struck again in the second. With KK on first after a walk, Luke Maile hit a liner to right that he tried to stretch into a double as Kiermaier raced to third. Unfortunately, Trumbo's throw was on target and Maile was clearly out at second. With Kiermaier on third, Logan Forsythe hit a grounder that skipped by the glove of Manny Machado into left field that sent Kiermaier home and put the Rays up 2-0.
The Orioles got one back in the third inning, as Chris Archer tossed a big, juicy meatball to Pedro Alvarez that he promptly deposited next to Ducky's in center field. This one was a bomb, as Archer's homers often are. 2-1 Rays.
In the bottom of the third, after singles from Big Swingin' Corey and Brandon Guyer, and a KK fly ball that advanced Dickerson to third base, Luke Maile got ahold of one again. His grounder laced through the gap between third and short and sent Dickerson across the plate for a 3-1 Rays lead.
Pedro Alvarez, toying with Archer like a cat toy today, smashed another of Chris's offerings into left field that looked like it was out of here. Instead, it bounced off the very top of the wall and back into play for an RBI double that scored JJ Hardy. I'm thankful the fans out there behaved this time, and didn't interfere like we've seen so painfully often. 3-2 Rays.
The game would be tied in the sixth. After Archer gave up a double to Manny Machado and a single to Mark Trumbo that moved Manny to third with one out, Matt Wieters hit a soft ground ball to Brad Miller that was quite close to being an inning-ending double play. Unfortunately, only a force out would result as Wieter's ball was too softly hit to quickly turn it and Machado would account for the tying run.
It was clear that Chris Archer wanted this win. He'd been unable to secure one in his last six straight starts, and as he came out for the eighth inning I imagine he was determined to make sure that streak didn't stretch to seven. That is what made it especially confounding when the ball left his hand on his second pitch to Jonathan Schoop, and it was clear that this pitch was so perfectly up and over the plate that Kevin Cash could have taken it yard. Schoop made him pay, and smashed Archer's dumpster pitch deep into the left field seats to put the O's up 4-3 for good.
Another Rays loss, another late lead blown and another homer-happy appearance from Chris Archer. Rinse and repeat.
Tonight, Matt Moore and the 34-55 Tampa Bay Rays will be the opening act for the Bret Michaels concert at Tropicana Field! We'll have a Game Day Thread up where we'll discuss which Poison song best describes the 2016 Rays season. Winner gets two free tickets to the DRaysBay Writers Date Auction held at the end of the season. Good luck!