“For the first time in Snell’s career, he has gone seven innings in a major league start,” Dewayne Staats said as Blake Snell walked off the field.
Then Blake Snell walked back onto the field and left a curve slightly too high in the zone to Ruben Tejada, who lined it into right. Then Joey Rickard bunted down the first base line on him, and the ball hit a divot as it was going foul and rolled back fair. Then Sergio Romo could not prevent those two runners from scoring.
But ignore the denouement. It doesn’t matter because Blake Snell, who has frustrated Rays fans all year long with his slow pace, his poor command, and his nibbling approach, pitched real good. It also doesn’t matter because the Rays scored no runs.
Snell’s first pitch of the game was a fastball on the outer third that Adam Jones swung at hard and hit the other way for a double. It wasn’t a bad pitch at all, but Adam Jones can hit, and sometimes he does. I think that Rays fans were all watching for the first signs of adversity, just waiting for Snell to fold up and stop attacking, so the very next pitch was a good sign. To Manny Machado—also someone who can hit—he threw a fastball in the exact same spot. Foul ball, strike one.
A wild slider in the dirt sent Jones to third with no outs, but once more, Snell stayed with his plan, striking out Machado on another low slider, and then doing the same to Jonathan Schoop, before getting Mark Trumbo to pop up a high fastball, stranding Jones at third.
The next test of Snell’s composure came in the third inning after getting the first out, he placed a good fastball in on Adam Jones’s hands. It was a fine pitch, maybe even a good one, but as I said before, sometimes Adam Jones gets you, and he did so again, turning on the pitch and cranking it over the fence in left center.
Once more, Rays fans wondered if that good piece of hitting that was going to send Snell into a walk-fest tailspin. It did not. Instead, Snell worked the outside of the plate with fastballs and changeups to Machado and Jonathan Schoop to get out of the inning—smart pitching if a team is hunting your fastball, as the quickness of Jones’s hands might indicate. And then, as if to prove that he was not intimidated, Snell came back in on the hands of Paul Mancini early next inning.
Snell stayed in control of his stuff and in command of the game for all 7+ of his innings (yes, there was nothing wrong with how he pitched to two men in the eighth), but I’m just going to share one more detail from the tops of the innings, because Adam Jones really did have a ridiculous day. In the top of the fifth, with two outs and a man on base, Snell threw Adam Jones a fastball a full four inches off the plate outside. Jones hit it sharply, on a line the other way (but Steven Souza Jr. was able to track it down in right field). Totally ridiculous.
The FanGraphs player page tells me that Kevin Gausman isn’t a good pitcher, but I sure don’t understand. Maybe this is all some elaborate joke the league is playing on the Rays?
What I see is a guy with a mid-to-high-90s fastball that has good rise, and a mid-80s splitter that falls off the table. I see a guy who can command both pitches to both sides of the plate. I see a guy who the Rays cannot touch. If you told me that “Cy Gausman” was an actual campaign slogan rather than a bitter jab at our offensive ineptitude, I would believe you.
Not that there weren’t self-inflicted failures to score.
In the fifth inning, Mallex Smith lead off with a triple. Adeiny Hechavarria put the ball in play, but it was right to Machado playing just off third base and Smith had to dive back to avoid a tag en route to a double play. Souza walked to give Corey Dickerson a chance, but Dickerson has been in a major slump. He’s swinging through fastballs right now that he really needs to hit, and after missing his pitch he did something worse than miss—he grounded into a double play.
Later, in the seventh inning, Tim Beckham worked a great at bat against the tough righty Darren O’Day. It was well done. A very impressive eye. Which is what he did not show when Hechavarria soon hit a line drive into right field. Joey Rickard needed to flash his good range to get there, but he made the play fairly easily. Beckham seemed to have decided that the ball was going to drop, and was running hard to second base. After the catch he tried to put on the breaks but slipped and was doubled off first to end the inning.
This marks the first time this season that the Rays have lost five games in a row.
Some other notes:
- The Orioles turned one of the best double plays you’ll ever see to get out of the first inning. With Souza at first, Longoria grounded sharply down the third base line. Machado made a great play just to get a glove on it, and then contorted his body and, while still running past third base, fired a strong and accurate throw to second. With Souza bearing down on him, Schoop timed everything perfectly, planting his foot on the bag while he caught the ball, and throwing to first in a single motion without being able to step into the throw.
- In the fifth inning, Ruben Tejada’s bat splintered in his hand. Tejada’s backswing carried it around his body, and a the large part went flying straight back, hitting Ramos on the helmet covering his forehead. While there was some non-trivial amount of blood coming out of Ramos’s head, well-contained by towels, he didn’t look to be especially dazed. Still, the Rays immediately substituted him for Sucre, and sent Ramos for treatment. . . which apparently meant six staples.
- In the bottom of the sixth, we got a gamebreak about the Kansas City Royals opening up a lead against the Detroit Tigers. Brian Anderson wondered allowed where the Royals, now solidly in the wild card race, had come from, saying that when the Rays had last played them, people were talking about “selling the farm.” Being that what BA meant was “selling everything—as in all the major league pieces—for prospects,” and that “farm” also means “a baseball team’s minor league system,” it was a uniquely bad mixed metaphor.
- Manny Machado blew a bubble while making a difficult, awkward catch in foul territory. Those are skills.
- I’m not sure what to make of Sergio Romo. Plenty of misses wide with the slider, but also a strikeout. We’ll see.