There’s an obvious story in the box score of this game, that wasn’t totally obvious to someone actually watching: Jake Odorizzi pitched seven innings and only gave up one hit.
It looked like it was going to be a very different type of night for Odorizzi when he walked Matt Joyce, the first batter of the game, wildly. But that man on base brought him to the stretch, where he recovered some of his mechanics and command, and he never looked back. As in, Odorizzi got out of the first inning and continued to pitch out of the stretch, even with the bases empty.
Other than that leadoff batter, Odorizzi issued one other walk, and gave up one home run, while striking out five batters.
Was he that good? Did he deserve the one-hit performance? Probably not. There was a fair amount of contact that sent fly balls and line drives directly at outfielders. But he did create some weak contact for popouts as well, and he largely kept himself out of those dangerous hitters’ counts where the batter can just sit fastball. And while he wasn’t consistently overpowering, he threw some very good pitches, with a few perfectly timed and placed sliders and changeups, so let’s give Odorizzi some of the credit and be happy with the outcome.
The three Rays runs came as the result of two big hits, and one bout of suspect defense.
Steven Souza Jr. led off the second inning by turning on a fastball that was down and in. That’s a pitch he’s been able to get to very well this year, and he caught all of this one, lining it out of the park to left center field to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.
In the third inning, the Oakland A’s manufactured a run for the Rays.
With one out, Daniel Gossett walked Mallex Smith on a non-competitive sequence, with all four of the balls missing by at least six inches. I don’t know why pitchers seem to have so much trouble throwing Smith strikes, but I’ll take it. Smith advanced to second on a wild pitch that catcher Bruce Maxwell really should have done a better job blocking.
Now batting with a runner in scoring position, Corey Dickerson reached for a low pitch and grounded it hard up the middle. It ricocheted off the mound (maybe catching a bit of Gossett’s foot?), and bounced high but straight to Marcus Semien . . . who took way too long to set himself for throw, allowing the hustling Dickerson to earn an infield hit while Smith went to third.
It seemed like Gossett would escape the sloppy inning when he drew a tailor-made double play grounder from Evan Longoria, direct to Semien . . . who botched the pickup. It hit off his glove and into his chest, and while he was able to recover quickly and get one out at second, Oakland no longer had a chance to turn two. Smith scored.
Oakland drew one run back in the fourth inning when Khris Davis knocked a high fastball out to right center. Davis is strong. The swing didn’t look like a home run to me off the bat, but it got out quick. There were two other well-hit pitches that inning, but in both cases they went straight to Rays outfielders, and Odorizzi was able to leave the inning with the lead.
Over the start of his young career, the book on Gossett has been that he struggles once opposing teams have gotten a good look at his stuff. He was mostly able to make his way through the Rays lineup for the second time without being hit hard, but third time through, in the top of the fifth inning, Evan Longoria caught him. Gossett’s best pitch is his slider, but when he left one of them slightly too high and over the middle of the plate, Longoria was ready for it, leaning down and pulling it for a solo home run. That brought Odorizzi’s cushion back up to two: 3-1, Rays.
Alex Colome gave up a run in the ninth inning, off a leadoff double, a groundball, and a wild pitch, but the two run cushion was enough for Colome to close the door. Rays win. Two games back.
Some other notes:
- In the top of the second inning, Brad Miller fouled a ball straight back off of catcher Bruce Maxwell’s mask. The impact knocked Maxwell back, sat him down, and put a dazed look on his face. Nevertheless, after spending a bit of time being talked to, Maxwell stayed in the game. I don’t get it. With all that we now know about the danger of repeated concussions, what can you discover with a chat that tells you that your catcher is okay to continue and makes leaving him in an acceptable risk?
- Next up, Tim Beckham swung at strike three, a pitch in the dirt that Maxwell could not block. As Maxwell scrambled after it he caught his toe on Beckham’s heel and face planted on the third base line. Once more he was checked out by the trainer and the manager, but he assured them that he had just tripped, and that his brains were not addled.
- There’s an easy fix. If a player comes off to be checked for a concussion, let him sub back on if he’s medically cleared. Then no one needs to make a decision on the field with everyone watching and with pressure to keep the game rolling along. the backup catcher can come in for a few pitches, and the trainer can take however much time he needs.
- No, BA, I have never met a Daphne, and yes, Dewayne, it’s a good idea for you to stay far away from this conversation.
- Khris Davis has gigantic legs and a huge, thick chest. He is strong. He’s a very good hitter, but he looks to me like a guy who’s about ready to be a very good designated hitter.
- Tim Beckham didn’t like the called strike three he took in the third inning. He apparently said something about it while he came out to play second base, and got himself ejected. Brad Miller was at DH today. That meant that Trevor Plouffe had to play second base. Bad job, Bex. Please try not to do that again.
- Asked who is the best-dressed teammate, someone said: “Mallex brings it . . . he’s got some short ties, he’s got some shirts that look like they’ve been eaten by little ants.” I was looking down at my notes during the interview. Please tell me who said that (maybe Plouffe?) and let’s get him a job as a fashion blogger.
- In the seventh inning, Adeiny Hechavarria lead off with a well-struck opposite-field fly ball that bounced on the warning track in right and out for a ground-rule double. Jesus Sucre laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him to third for Mallex Smith. Smith chopped a grounder to first, and the Athletics, who have a maligned defense, pulled off a great play. Alonso charged down the line and grabbed the grounder on a short hop. He threw off-balance, on the run, and to the perfect spot. Maxwell swiped the tag, and nabbed Hechavarria’s foot just before it reached the plate.
- Blake Treinen’s 99 mph two-seam fastball has some crazy movement—when it’s at its best, it can reach 15 inches of horizontal run. That looks silly.