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Rays 2, Orioles 0: Bullpen leads way on soggy day

And some big men run the bases.

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

You may have noticed that the Rays have had some trouble holding leads lately. They’ve scored plenty of runs early, but in the latter parts of games the bats have gone cold, the starting pitching and the defense has faltered, and the bullpen has left plenty to be desired.

So obviously the surefire fix was to blow up the whole early/late construct. There is no late lead. We are all a late lead. Can’t fail. Didn’t fail.

Erasmo Ramirez was scheduled to start, but with off-and-on rain in the forecast, Kevin Cash didn’t want to have his starter’s night cut short by a rain delay. So he instead began the game with his bullpen, sending Austin Pruitt out for the first pitch.

Pruitt did a fine job, working three scoreless innings. He leaned heavily on his slider—which is actually an excellent pitch in an otherwise ordinary arsenal—throwing it nearly as often as his fastball (22 sliders, 24 fastballs). He struck out Mark Trumbo, Caleb Joseph, and Adam Jones, and with the help of some well-positioned (luckily-positioned?) fielders was able to work around a hit, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch.

Patience And Baserunning Worth Two Runs

With one out in the top of the fourth inning, Rickie Weeks Jr. and Logan Morrison both drew walks. That’s not the fleetest pair of runners the Rays have, which wouldn’t be noteworthy except for the fact that they deserve credit for what happened next.

Tim Beckham inside-outed a Wade Miley breaking ball for a line drive single into center field. It wasn’t hit very hard, and Adam Jones is playing deeper this year than in the past, but my expectation off the bat was for each runner to move up one base. Not so. With good jumps, Weeks scored and Morrison went first-to-third.

Next up, Derek Norris hit a fliner into short right field. Similarly, I didn’t think this was the type of hit a runner like Morrison could come home on, but Morrison tagged and gave it a go. Maybe it would have been a close play at the plate, but there was no play at the plate. Right fielder Seth Smith instead tried to make a quick throw behind Beckham at first, but Bex was back in standing up.

Piecing It Together

I think Cash meant for Ramirez to pitch the second half of this game, but kudos to him for being flexible and going by the matchups.

Due up in the fourth inning were lefty Chris Davis, righty Mark Trumbo, and lefty Hyun Soo Kim. That was the right time for Cash to use his reverse-split “L”OOGY, Danny Farquhar. Davis queued an infield hit against the shift off the end of the bat, but Farq was able to pop up Trumbo and strike out Kim.

With the righty Jonathan Schoop next, Cash turned to Jumbo Diaz, who put Schoop away swinging on three pitches. Diaz also owned the fifth inning, mixing his high-90s fastball with his slider and with a nasty split-action changeup.

What’s that you say? “Jumbo Diaz doesn’t throw a changeup?”

Jumbo Diaz Changeups (?!) 4.25.17

“He does with a wet ball in the pouring rain,” I say. Probably these were just some sliders that slipped out of his hand in an unusual way. But they did happen.

Chase Whitley most definitely throws a nasty changeup in all weather, and three perfect innings (with three strikeouts) from him delivered the game to closer Alex Colome, who wasn’t the sharpest he’s ever been but was good enough.

The rain never let up, and starter Erasmo Ramirez never got to pitch, but with how the game shook out he didn’t need to. The Rays can reset their starting rotation how they please tomorrow, either using Ramirez or skipping him and holding him in reserve if needed, and Rays fans can go to bed pleased that this sometimes-shaky bullpen has complete-game shutouts in them as well.

Some other notes:

  • In the third inning, Kevin Kiermaier hung Peter Bourjos out to dry with a decision not to bunt. Bourjos was on second with Kiermaier at the plate. KK showed bunt, and got a pitch in the zone, but pulled back at the last second, faking out Bourjos who had taken a big lead toward third. Bourjos was thrown behind and picked off.
  • There was an iffy moment for Steven Souza Jr. in the fourth inning. After striking out looking, he threw his bat backward in frustration, nearly hitting Jim Hickey in the Rays dugout. Home plate umpire James Hoye looked for a second like he was going to toss Souza, but settled instead for a pointed finger and a “you’re an idiot, don’t do that again” stare.
  • Weird play in the sixth when Evan Longoria hit a pitch foul down the third base line. Seeing its initial track he stopped running and put his head down, but the ball took a very odd bounce and came back toward fair territory. Manny Machado alertly gave it the time to roll back fair, catching Longoria in the embarrassing non-hustle out at first. Hard to get too upset at Longo. This was a routine foul ball that did something very weird.
  • Jake Odorizzi was wearing a giant gold chain in the dugout
  • Hoye’s zone left something to be desired, especially to righties.