This definitely wasn’t the most fun game Rays fans have ever been treated to. The highlight of this slow-moving, boring loss was probably the Andrew McCutchen show.
NEWS FLASH: Andrew McCutchen is good at baseball.
In his first at bat he stayed on a Chris Archer slider on the corner, moving down and away from him. Flipping it for a line drive single into center. Archer rallied to strike out the next two batters and escape the small jam.
McCutchen’s next at bat came in the third inning, and this one cost the Rays. With one out, Adam Frazier had already grounded up the middle. Josh Harrison had hit a soft liner into center on what looked like a hit-and-run, putting runners at the corner. With two strikes, Archer threw McCutchen another slider, this one on the outside and a bit below the zone. This is a good pitch. Archer’s slider is a good slider. It’s not supposed to be hit well if located in this spot. But McCutchen made it look very easy, lining an RBI single up the middle.
In the fourth inning, John Jaso hit a leadoff home run. McCutchen probably had nothing to do with it.
Having already seen that McCutchen can hit tough pitches, Chris Archer tried something different in the fifth inning, with two outs and a man on first. He threw him a fastball down the middle. McCutchen hit it hard, the other way, off the wall. Shane Peterson played it perfectly, preventing a run from scoring. A good play from Dickerson in the next at bat got the Rays out of that inning without damage.
In the sixth inning, Gregory Polanco hit a home run. McCutchen probably had about the same influence on this one as he did on the Jaso homer.
Chase Whitley came on to pitch the seventh, and with two outs he gave Harrison a second hit-by-pitch in this game. Harrison stole second (the throw skipped into center field but Tim Beckham kept the glove on in a good piece of thinking—Harrison didn’t know Beckham didn’t have the ball, so he didn’t pop up and advance to third), and McCutchen took a four pitch walk. Because Chase Whitley got the news flash.
Josh Bell grounded a single into right to score the fourth and final run of the game.
Some other notes:
- The Rays came closest to scoring in the top of the seventh, as Pirate pitcher Jameson Taillon’s command began to falter. Jesus Sucre lead off with a double, and Mallex Smith, pinch hitting for Archer, drew a walk. Steven Souza gave a good at bat, and smashed the ball on a line to left field. But right at John Jaso. Which is a shame, because Jaso is not a left fielder with a lot of range. Tony Watson, a side-arming lefty, came on and dominated the next two Rays batters to end the threat.
- In the eighth inning, Logan Morrison hit Pirates catcher Chris Stewart (in the head) with his back swing. Stewart was briefly checked out by the training staff, but shook it off. Ouch.
- Adam Kolarek got his major league debut for the Rays, giving up one hit in one and a third innings of work, and collecting his first strikeout. He has a sidearm lefty delivery that he seems to come out of when he wants to throw a hard four-seam fastball. It’s easy to see him carving out a role for himself as a LOOGY if he can command.