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Rays 4, Astros 6: Pitching and defense can’t hold an early lead

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Offense can’t get anything going after the first inning.

MLB: Houston Astros at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays jumped on the Astros for four runs in the first inning. It was a big inning that was extremely close to not happening at all. Corey Dickerson started off by swinging awkwardly at an 0-2 curve in the dirt. The pitch actually bounced hard off home plate and kicked away from catcher Brian McCann. Dickerson made it to first easily for the strikeout/wild pitch.

In the next at bat, Logan Morrison reached a changeup on the outside and hit it hard to straightaway center field, but The Trop held it. Also Jake Marisnick held it, despite hitting the wall hard as he made the catch, so kudos to him. He got the ball in before going down with the wind knocked out of him, so Dickerson was held at first base, keeping the double play in order. Evan Longoria nearly obliged by grounding into that double play, but his groundball to short wasn’t hit hard and he beat the turn.

Joe Musgrove seemed to be in control, though, and he quickly got to two strikes against Brad Miller. But on the third pitch—a changeup maybe just below the zone—Miller yanked a hard line drive past first that ran all the way to the corner for a triple, knocking in the first run of the game.

Up next, Steven Souza Jr. had an excellent at bat where he fought off a 1-2 pitch in on his hands. When the next pitch didn’t make it quite as far inside, Souza did not allow himself to be jammed. He pulled his hands in and blasted a line-drive home run off the left-field foul pole to stretch the lead to 3-0.

Then Shane Peterson and Rickie Weeks Jr. tapped a pair of seeing-eye singles. Jesus Sucre earned his hit though, pulling his hands in and lining an inside fastball into left-center. Marisnick did a good job to cut it off, but I did think live it was the type of hit where someone could score from first. Maybe not if that someone is Rickie Weeks these days, and Weeks didn’t try.

The Rays left the inning happy enough, though, up 4-0. Why shouldn’t they be? A 4-run league after one inning is plenty, right?

(Not) Holding the Lead

But the Astros didn’t roll over. In the third inning, Carlos Beltran chopped a grounder up the middle. Matt Andriese had an opportunity to glove it, but his stab only deflected it so that no other infielders could make a play. A batter later, Carlos Correa took an 0-2 fastball on the outside edge of the plate and drove it the other way for a two-run homer. There’s an argument that in that pitcher’s count, Andriese should have worked further outside, but it was still very good hitting. Tip your cap.

In the top of the fifth inning, Andriese gave Jose Altuve a first-pitch fastball right down the middle. Altuve was all over it for a pulled home run to left. There’s an argument that Andriese shouldn’t groove fastballs.

Andriese left after the fifth and was relieved by Chase Whitley, who worked a clean sixth inning. In the seventh, Norichi Aoki barely beat out (maybe, too close to tell on replay) an infield single, but was able to get the next two outs. With Beltran out, Kevin Cash turned to the anti-switch-hitter weapon, Danny Farquhar, who got the groundout.

That brought the Rays to the eighth inning, up one, and Cash gave the ball to his closer, Alex Colome, for the two-inning save.

It didn’t work. That’s a story. But, honestly, can you say that Colome pitched badly? In the eighth he gave up a single on a beautiful bunt by Altuve, but Altuve was erased in a double play. He walked McCann, but then got out of the inning with a popup.

In the ninth, Gurriel lead off with a line-drive opposite-field single, but it was a really nice hit going the other way on a pitch well-placed down and away from him. Aoki grounded to first base, advancing the runner, but with a fielder who had played more first than Weeks, that could have been a double play, or at least an out at second erasing the lead runner. That lead runner advanced to third via a passed ball by Sucre.

Then Gurriel came home on a fly ball just deep enough to right field. Good throw by Souza. Just not enough. Tie game.

Once the Astros sent the game into extras, Cash turned things over to Ryan Garton. It didn’t go well.

Some other notes:

  • The Houston broadcast put up a leaderboard of players with the longest active consecutive games played. George Springer of the Astros is number one on the list (he sat today with a hamstring twinge, ending his streak). Evan Longoria was fourth (now third) with 117. Do y’all remember back when people used to talk about how Longo was good, but he was too fragile and couldn’t stay on the field?
  • Talking about the charity raffle at the Trop, the Astros broadcast showed an old Astros “Colt .45” jersey that was one of the prizes. Said color commentator Geoff Blum, “You have the inside track here, can’t you get one of those?” Replied Todd Kalas immediately, “It’s all on the up and up.” He also mentioned that Dewayne Staats would surely be bidding for that jersey as well.
  • The slow-mo of the Houston broadcast caught a great shot of Matt Andriese throwing a changeup. Blum identified the changeup, but saw the spin going the wrong way, and remarked about how weird it was, prompting Kalas to laugh, and say, “You don’t know Andriese as well, but we always got fooled by that pitch. It’s a changeup that has slider movement.” Which is true, and a good observation I hadn’t thought much about. You try to draw the line here between the changeups and the sliders:
Matt Andriese, 2017
  • When Souza sac-bunted in the sixth, Blum said, “You’re going to explain that one to me, right?” Kalas said “We used to have a phrase. . . ‘Souza being Souza.’”
  • Of course I was going to listen to Todd Kalas, for old times sake. But by the end of this series I was listening to the Houston broadcast because it’s good. Kalas and Blum have a good rapport, bringing a comfortable rhythm, close observation of the actual game, and real insight. Good job, TK.
  • A couple of his throws got beaten out, but Tim Beckham looked really good today in the field at shortstop.