Yesterday, the Rays ran into a pitcher having a night to remember. Daniel Duffy was amazing. When that happens, you tip your cap and move on.
This loss was more frustrating, because Yordano Ventura was not amazing. His pitches sometimes went where he wanted them to, but often they did not. The Rays put men on base. They had chances to break the game open. They did not, and then they were made to pay.
Ceding the Lead Early and Not Taking It Back
The Rays were a strike away from a clean first inning, when Lorenzo Cain was jammed by an inside fastball, but muscled it into left field anyway for a single. He promptly took a giant lead off Matt Andriese, and stole second. That allowed Cain to come home when an Eric Hosmer grounder found a hole in the infield.
The Rays had a real chance to get on their offense rolling in the third inning. Nick Franklin lead off and sent a ground ball up the middle for a single. He was thrown out trying to steal second, but Luke Maile replaced him by accepting a walk from Yordano Ventura.
Ventura is an odd pitcher to watch. He has some of the best stuff in baseball, but he’s struggled this season. When he’s hitting his spots, you don’t understand how it’s possible for that pitcher to have that ERA. But then he goes through spurts like this, and you totally get it it.
Logan Forsythe hit a single up the middle, and was then forced at second on Kevin Kiermaier’s ground ball. That put runners at first and third with two outs. And Ventura couldn’t command his awesome pitches. To Longoria, his fastball was low repeatedly, then away. Sometimes it came back into the strike zone, but after working to a full count, Longoria walked to load the bases.
Brad Miller took some pitches, and then saw one he liked. He hit it hard: 108.3 mph. But it was on the ground and straight at Raul Mondesi Jr. No runs for the Rays.
The Rays put two men on base in the fourth inning, with a walk from Corey Dickerson and a hard groundball single from Steven Souza Jr. But once more they did not score.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, we got a look at the new-look top of the Rays lineup. Forsythe walked (his third time on base), and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Kevin Kiermaier, now in the second spot in the batting order, laid a good bunt down the third base line. Ventura fielded and needed to hurry. His throw was behind Kiermaier, and Forsythe scored easily.
Brad Miller, now hitting cleanup, hit a ground ball between second and first base. Mondesi showed impressive range to keep it on the infield, but he had no play, and Kiermaier hustled to third. That meant he got to come home on a Jennings groundout.
Giving Back The Lead
Aside from the lone run the Royals manufactured in the first, Matt Andriese pitched a nearly flawless night. He was ahead of pretty much every batter, and he mixed his pitches effectively, spotting fastballs around the zone (but mostly low) and using both his changeup and breaking ball well.
But Andriese was in the bullpen and he isn’t stretched out yet. Kevin Cash only gave him four innings before giving the ball to Erasmo Ramirez. Who was dominant. Erasmo mixed his fastball, cutter, and changeup, and was also in the driver’s seat against these Royals batters. But he’s a reliever now. He only got two innings.
Xavier Cedeno was called on to pitch the seventh inning, and he wasn’t able to hold the lead. He gave up a single down the line off the end of Hosmer’s bat, and then had to face the dangerous righties Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez. Morales was called out after a long at bat on what might have been a kind decision on a backdoor cutter, but Perez had more success. Cedeno gave him an elevated cutter that didn’t make it inside, and Perez crushed it for a two-run homer that put the Royals back on top.
The back end of the Royals bullpen did not give the lead back.
Some other notes:
- Brian Anderson got a kick out of a throw over to first by Andriese. Because Hosmer was standing on the bag. He hadn’t even taken a lead. Hosmer got a kick out of it too.
- In the second inning, Desmond Jennings fouled a ball off his left knee. He was checked out by the trainers, but stayed in the game.
- Good thing he did, too. In the top of the third, with a man on first, Lorenzo Cain hit a fly ball into the alley. It looked like a hit off the bat, but Jennings covered a ton of ground to make the play.
- Salvador Perez can really throw from behind the plate. I just wouldn’t steal on him, pretty much ever.
- Todd Kalas had some trouble with the laundry hamper.
- And Dewayne Staats said that kids (14 and under) should put a candle inside their laundry hampers to make a lantern. That sounds like a terrible idea, Dewayne, and one your producers probably don’t want you to say on the radio.
- Erasmo Ramirez threw a lot of cut fastballs today to righties. Coming in at 90 mph, they seemed to work pretty well.
- Matt Straham looks a bit like Blake Snell. Not once he actually throws a pitch, though. Low-arm-angle lefty. And he throws hard (fastball at 97 mph).
- Brad Boxberger pitched an inning. No swinging strikes, but he did induce four ground balls (two for outs, two for hits). Not the worst.