The Rays had some reasons to be optimistic Wednesday, mainly that Evan Longoria returned from a brief injury absence, Colby Rasmus finally appeared on the active roster after a lengthy DL stint, and prime bullpen prospect Jose Alvarado was called up to the big club.
There were also some looming concerns, most notably a limited bullpen and a starter that has yet to go deep into a game this season.
The concerns won out.
The Pitching Problem
Wednesday night’s entire pitching situation was bad from the get-go. That’s not to say that Blake Snell, who K’d nine hitters in five innings of work, was inherently bad; or that the bullpen was a complete and utter disaster, though they came close to earning that moniker.
Rather, I’m saying the situation the Rays found themselves in at first-pitch was . . . less than ideal. Snell has yet to get through seven complete innings this season and, coming into Wednesday’s game, had gone less than six innings in his past four starts. That fact compounded by a bullpen that was highly utilized on the road trip and a starter tomorrow in Matt Andriese that also hasn’t proven any kind of longevity in games this season, left very little room for error.
To Snell’s credit, he truly kept the Marlins’ hitters off-balance. His curveball and change-up played especially well off of his fastball tonight that was consistently in the mid-90s. He struck out nine guys in five innings, which deserves props! On the other hand, he consistently got himself into deep counts, often needing five, six, and seven pitches to record pop-outs and grounders, as well as K’s. That added up to 109 pitches in a hurry, and Kevin Cash turned to Austin Pruitt.
Now, in a lot of conversations after this game, Pruitt is going to be lambasted. Heck, I was at the game and was less than complimentary of his pitching. He gave up five consecutive base hits to the bottom of the Marlins’ order before recording an out, which was earned courtesy of Kevin Kiermaier throwing out Ichiro trying to go from first to third. However, after going back and looking at that inning, Pruitt was just as much a victim of bad BABIP luck as he was of his own bad pitching. None of the first three hits were tagged well, including a broken-bat blooper from Martin Prado.
But they all look the same in the box score, and seven hits coupled with five earned runs in one inning of work isn’t going to earn you a lot of sympathy in MLB. Many are going to question Cash leaving Pruitt in there for as long as he did, but he has tomorrow’s game to think about too, when contemplating his bullpen’s availability. He made the right call, not mortgaging his bullpen for what will likely be another long night tomorrow.
The bad BABIP also marred Jose Alvarado’s MLB debut. A few weakly hit infield balls and some less-than-inspiring defense put him in a jam and, eventually, cost him three earned runs. On the bright side, his fastball was absolutely electric and he has a dominant mound presence. In the words of The Offspring, “You’re gonna go far, kid.”
· I was sitting directly underneath Marcell Ozuna’s massive home run to left field and it was absolutely awesome to watch. It cleared over the top of the third ring catwalk and bounced off of the Wild Card banner. Estimates put it at 468ft. Just WOW!
· Daniel Robertson clubbed his second homer of the year to dead-center field.
· The BABIP Bad Luck wasn’t exclusive to pitchers wearing home-whites tonight. Rickie Weeks Jr. had two hard-hit balls hauled in by the ageless Ichiro Suzuki in right, both of which would have gone for extra-bases.
· Went to the game with my buddy from Pembroke Pines, who caught Danny Farquhar in Little League. He was quick to note that Farquhar was the only pitcher who didn’t allow a baserunner. Coincidence? – Yes, definitely a coincidence.
· Jake Odorizzi was one of my favorite pitchers – until he said that a hotdog should be considered a sandwich. I’m not sure I can condone such blasphemy.