Sometimes it seems so easy. Your big guys are hitting for power, your fast guys are stealing bases; even the guys who never hit somehow run into a game winning single or two. Your outfielders are tracking down flies and pitchers are hitting their targets. Throw in a lucky bounce or two and the wins keep coming.
And other times…
Other times are like the last three games.
Maybe your starter has a meltdown inning. Maybe balls hop mysteriously out of your fielders’ gloves. Maybe your hitters are stymied by middling pitchers. Suddenly it seems so very easy to lose.
Tonight’s game seemed like one destined for the win column.
The Rays scratched together three runs in the third inning with some walks and some singles, with Evan Longoria responsible for the most productive hit, a single that scored two runs.
Meanwhile, Archer was sharp. His slider had great movement, his command was good. In the first five innings he allowed just two hits (although one was a solo HR to Elvis Andrus), and no walks. His pitch count was controlled, and he seemed to be cruising.
By the sixth inning he was facing the line-up for the third time, which always has risks. After striking out number nine hitter Joey Gallo, he did indeed give up singles to Choo and Andrus, who moved to second and third on a ground out, but the balls weren’t scorched and there was no reason to think he could not get through the inning with the lead intact.
Up came Adrian Beltre. The Rangers’ third baseman drilled a ball to center field. It was well struck, and it was over the head of Mallex Smith, but it wasn’t a particularly difficult play. Smith easily covered the ground and got under the ball and then...then....he didn’t have it. I guess I could watch the replay to figure out exactly what went wrong but it’s just too painful. And does it matter? Point is he should have caught it and he didn’t. Instead of the third out of the inning it was a two base, two RBI error. Game tied.
That was bad enough, but it got worse. For the most part, we love Chris Archer’s passion, his excitability, his jumping around the field. But there are times when it doesn’t serve him particularly well. Archer clearly lost his cool and his focus. A wild pitch allowed Beltre to advance to third. A second wild pitch brought him home with the go-ahead run as the Rangers took a 4-3 lead. Archer then put Napoli on with a walk. Finally the inning ended with a ground ball hit into the shift.
As costly as the errors and wild pitches were, however, a one run lead need not be insurmountable. But the Rays offense was unable able to get anything beyond that third inning rally. There were a base runners. A Ramos single in the sixth; a Hechevvaria single in the seventh (which led to an interesting but for the Rays unfortunate sequence in which the Rangers failed to turn a double play on a Souza ground out, with the throw to first sailing over Gallo’s head, but Souza then was thrown out when he moved to second on the overthrow.) The Rays got two on in the eight, to no avail, and Peter Bourjos even provided a sliver of hope by doubling in the bottom of the ninth.
Archer’s final line was a strong one – 7 innings, four hits, 1 earned run, eleven strike outs. Although it was a shame that he gave away that 4th run with the wild pitches, it is hard to pin this loss on him.
Tomorrow Jake Odorizzi will try to salvage the series.
As the game concluded it was announced that the Rays had acquired Sergio Romo, recently released by the the LA Dodgers, whose possible addition was discussed here.