It’s not such a big deal to lose to Chris Sale. The Rays have done it before. They’ll probably do it again. Move on, there’s another game tomorrow.
But it is a big deal when your number two starter leaves the game in the second inning.
On the first pitch of the second, Jake Odorizzi threw a breaking ball, winced badly after the follow through, grabbed at the top of his left hamstring, and immediately beckoned the trainer out of the clubhouse. Ron Porterfield watched Odorizzi throw two practice pitches with Odor shaking his head in frustration after each one. It was obvious that he could not continue, and this became a bullpen game.
So far the Rays have called the problem “hamstring tightness,” and the broadcast pointed out that Odorizzi grabbed at the same spot where he was hit by a line drive in his last appearance. Here’s hoping it’s not serious.
Why, again, did we make Erasmo into a reliever?
I know, the Rays made Erasmo Ramirez a reliever because they had a surplus of starting pitchers and he was willing and able to make the transition. But one could be forgiven for wondering if this was a situation where Ramirez’s good attitude was to his professional detriment.
Brian Anderson has talked before about how it’s hard to come into the game after an unexpected pitcher injury because the relief pitcher has to warm up on the mound with everyone watching, and the pressure tends to make a pitcher rush his warmup. At the very least, it’s an unfamiliar situation.
That seems like a plausible narrative, as Ramirez’s first pitch to Mitch Moreland was an absolute lemming; a two-seam fastball right down the middle that Moreland had no trouble depositing in the right field seats.
But after that unhappy beginning, Ramirez was huge. He spent most of the time working the bottom of the zone with his low-90s sinker, but his slider was also effective, drawing three whiffs on six swings.
After that first very bad pitch, Ramirez gave the Rays 46 pretty good pitches, which amounted to four innings of one-run ball—three hits, two strikeouts, no walks, and a couple excellent defensive plays by Steven Souza Jr. and Daniel Robertson.
A Run Against the Ace
While Ramirez was doing his good work, the Rays offense did just enough to make it matter.
It’s hard to get hits off Chris Sale, especially for a lefty, so Kevin Kiermaier led off the third inning with a reasonable approach: don’t swing. And Sale, a pitcher who seldom loses control, walked him on six pitches.
After Tim Beckham struck out, Souza took advantage of an elevated changeup to line a single into left for a single. Sale struck out Peter Bourjos, but Evan Longoria grounded a single up the middle to tie the game.
It actually seemed like Sale was struggling this inning. He got wild, and walked Rickie Weeks Jr. to load the bases, prompting Sale to pause, tie his shoe, have a talk with the pitching coach, and try to recollect himself. But the Rays were unable to make him pay, and when you don’t get to a pitcher of this caliber when you have the chance, you usually regret it.
It never again looked like the Rays had a chance.
In the sixth, Sale started throwing all his fastballs in the high 90s. I wrote in my notes, “He’s emptying the tank this inning, probably coming out after.”
No. He was just throwing heat because he could. He mowed down the Rays in the seventh inning as well.
Suspect Managing; Suspect Defense
Tommy Hunter took over for the Rays in the sixth inning and was effective. He came back for the seventh, and quickly got into trouble.
Mitch Moreland, a righty-killer, lined a single back up the middle. Then Xander Bogaerts slapped a soft grounder the other way for a single of his own. It wasn’t well hit, but I’m not sure if it’s right to call this a “seeing-eye” single. The Rays infield was shaded to the pull side, and this was just slightly out of the range of second baseman Daniel Robertson. Maybe Bogaerts tried to “hit it where they ain’t.” Maybe he just made poor contact and it went there. Either way, hard luck for Hunter.
But Tommy Hunter is a veteran, and one thing he’s been able to do his whole career is get ground balls. He did that against Pablo Sandoval, inducing a soft grounder to first base. Logan Morrison made a strong, accurate throw to second, but it was hit too softly for Beckham to try to turn two, and he smartly put it in his pocket.
Righty Chris Young was up next, and Hunter quickly got him into an 0-2 count. Despite throwing heat, Hunter isn’t really a strikeout pitcher, and it showed. After being unable to get Young to chase outside on two straight pitches, Hunter missed inside on two consecutive frontdoor sliders to load the bases.
This is where it got weird.
The Red Sox catcher, Sandy Leon, is a switch hitter, but he’s been significantly better in his career against lefties than against righties. Yes, Hunter was at 32 pitches, but I didn’t think he was spent. And as previously mentioned, he gets ground balls (a thing you want when you need to strand a man on third base and the bases are loaded).
So what did Kevin Cash do? He brought in lefty Xavior Cedeno to turn Leon around to his better side.
I do not understand the process, but the result was almost good. Cedeno jammed Leon with a cutter, drawing a weak ground ball to the right side.
But rookie Daniel Robertson looked like a rookie on this play. The ball was hit softly enough that he didn’t have a chance at getting Moreland at home, but he still looked to home first, and that cost him. At that point, his feet weren’t set right to be able to pivot and throw to second base, so he had to take the single out at first, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
The Rays might not have turned two even if Robertson had tried. It would have been tough. But Beckham was coming to the bag with momentum, and it was a catcher running to first. With the score tied in the seventh inning, one run is a big deal. Robertson has to try for the double play.
Matt Barnes relieved Sale in the eighth inning, and he was a mess. For a few batters he could not throw a strike to save his life. With two men on and one out, I sort of think Evan Longoria could have left the bat on his shoulder and loaded the bases. But as the Rays best player, he instead tried to win the game, and grounded into an inning-ending double play, because sometimes baseball isn’t fair.
Most of the time Craig Kimbrel isn’t fair.
Some other notes:
- This is the move:
- But one more coming?