This was a mostly inoffensively managed game considering all the offense, as Cash employed the “hit a dinger” play frequently and majestically. As for criticism: Kevin still apparently needs come up with “don’t be an idiot on the bases” sign for Kevin Kiermaier.
Also: even though the following worked out, maybe don’t do this:
Austin Pruitt’s Second Time Through the Order
Pruitt continued his redemption narrative with another nice outing in relief of the tantalizing/frustrating Blake Snell. But after the Rays clubbed their way into the lead in the top of the eighth, it was a bit of a surprise to see Pruitt back out there to start a third inning of work in the bottom of the frame.
It wasn’t entirely shocking, mind you. Pruitt had only thrown 20 pitches at that point, and he still has a good bit of starter blood in him. And even after an off-day, bullpen conservation always has to be on Kevin Cash’s mind, especially with the Rays’ brutal early-season schedule. So trying to steal a few outs from Pruitt made sense after you thought about it for a minute.
What made less sense was leaving him in after the one-out infield single to Ezequiel Carrera, and especially after the error by Tim Beckham put runners on the corners with two outs. This set up a pretty big 3.35 LI at bat for Ryan Goins, who was by now seeing Pruitt for the second time.
And Goins put a good swing on it too. Fortunately for the Rays, he lined a not particularly sharp 1-1 curve directly to Peter Bourjos in left to allow Pruitt (and Cash) to wiggle off the hook.
But Jumbo Diaz was up and ready. He should have been pitching in this situation.
Verdict: Bad Process/Good Result because baseball
Chase Whitley to Close
After the Rays tacked on two more in the top of the ninth, Cash called on Jumbo to close it out in a non-save. This was undoubtedly the right move, even if Jumbo did get smacked around a little.
And when he got in trouble, Cash was quicker on the trigger this time. He pulled Diaz after the Jays pulled within three on Jose Bautista’s sacrifice fly. But he didn’t call on Alex Colome for the save. Instead, Chase Whitley got the call.
This move was surprising only because it wasn’t conventional, not because there was anything sketchy about it at all. Not every “save situation” is actually high leverage. With a runner on first, one out, and a three run lead, the Kendrys Morales at bat was barely mid-leverage (1.22 LI). And the Justin Smoak at bat, even with Chris Coglan defensive indifferenting around the bases, never rose out of low leverage.
Couple this with the fact that Colome has been ridden hard so far this young season, and this call was clearly correct, and not even all the difficult.
Verdict: Good Process/Good Results
April 29: Blue Jays 4, Rays 1
There’s only one move we need to talk about.
With the Rays down 2-1, they put runners on first and second with no one out in the sixth inning. This was a high leverage at bat at 3.03, and the run expectancy in that situation was 1.52.
And Kevin Cash asked Tim Beckham to bunt.
Danny says I’m not allowed to type the words for how I really feel about that. But it’s bad!
Now, thankfully(?) we got some clarity after the game, and keeping the sacrifice play on once it got to two strikes was the result of a missed sign. So that makes me feel just the teensiest bit better. Though I’m kind of perplexed that you would even need a sign to take the bunt off in the that situation. Seems like that should be the default, and that you should have to be proactively stupid to put it on again.
But what do I know? I’m just a blogger.
So I hate the bunt a little less than I did when I wrote my recap. But I still hate it. A lot.
Because here’s the thing: Even a successful bunt lowers your run expectancy in this situation. It’s just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad baseball play to be running there, down a run in the sixth, with guy who is at best an okay bunter. Let alone a guy who has been swinging a pretty good stick lately.
And yet Kevin Cash treated Tim Beckham like a National League pitcher.
I just don’t get it.
Look, we make jokes about “Don’t bunt, hit a dinger.” But there are actually times the bunt isn’t terrible. There are times it’s actually smart. We even had one later on in this very series!
If this were late in the game and we were playing for one run, a bunt would be a solid play. Even though a successful bunt would still bring your overall run expectancy down, the chance you will score at some point in the inning actually goes up.
In reality, the (very large) t-shirt we should all be wearing should read: Don't bunt, hit dingers. Unless the situation calls for a bunt, and the batter is good at bunting, and it's late in the game, and it's a close game. (h/t Bradley Neveu)
But down 2-1 in the sixth most emphatically not that situation.
And if you really do have that little faith in Beckham against the righty reliever, maybe you should pinch hit for him instead of saving Miller and LoMo for Robertson and Sucre.
Verdict: Rage. So. Much. Rage.
April 30, Blue Jays 3, Rays 1
There have been a lot of frustrating losses this year. This one is top two or three. Probably because it was so close to being a great win.
Archer has one “get away”
In case you forgot, Steven Souza Jr. got plunked in the hand pretty good in Saturday. He’s day-to-day. Then on Sunday, with one out and nobody on, Chris Archer had one — um — “get away from him a little bit.” Isn’t that convenient?
Was this an instruction from the bench? Or was Archer acting on his own? We’ll never know, because you can’t really talk about it without risking a suspension. But there was undoubtedly some purpose behind the pitch. And even though it didn’t hit Bautista, it was still well executed. The pitch was nowhere near his head.
Obligatory disclaimer: Baseball feuds dumb and dangerous.
But we did get an out from this one. There are worse ways to stand up for a teammate.
Verdict: I’m sure everyone will have forgotten all about this when the Jays come to the Trop next weekend...
We Need to Talk About Rickie...
Starting / not pinch hitting for Rickie Weeks Jr. against righties was mostly a byproduct of the Souza injury and roster construction. That said, while I was big fan of the signing, it hasn’t worked out great. While he’s handled lefties to the tune of 129 wRC+, he’s only put up 51 wRC+ against righties. And though the sample sizes against both are small, they are evenly divided.
I would have liked to have seen Beckham against Leone in the seventh or even Osuna in the ninth. No, that’s not a great matchup either. But Weeks has been awful.
Verdict: Patrick Leonard Time?
The Safety Squeeze
The safety squeeze in the eighth was a perfect illustration of when bunting is good. First, it was late, the score was tied, and Robertson (looks like) he knows what he’s doing with the bat.
And what a mighty fine bunt it was.
Verdict: A smart baseball play
The Bottom of the Eighth
The multiple decisions that made up the bottom of the eighth are kind of like a plate of spaghetti; you can’t really separate the noodles. So let’s consider them all together.
I wasn’t a fan of sending Archer back out for the bottom of the eighth, but I understood it. He had been pitching lights out, and this is not a deep pen on the back end. So while I would have sent out Jumbo for an inning, once you make the decision to let Archer start the thing, having Alex Colome at the ready was an acceptable alternative.
And for those of you screaming about two innings of Colome: that’s a strange complaint when he ended up not finishing one inning. We don’t know what would have transpired in the ninth if Colome had held the lead, so we shouldn’t be criticizing a hypothetical. You use your best reliever to get the biggest outs. At that point, the eighth was it.
All that said, the leash on Arch looked too long. After the walk to the #9 hitter, you make the move. I can’t figure a justification why Chris Archer is facing the top of the order a fourth time with a runner with a runner on when you’re only up by one and your closer is ready.
But you know what? If Longo fields the Pillar shot cleanly and turns the double play, or if Corey Dickerson times his jump better, or if Russell Martin’s flare slices two more inches, I think we still win this game.
Verdict: I hate baseball