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Rays vs. Red Sox, game two recap: Offense can’t catch a break

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While Odorizzi can’t find the zone.

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays
In a rundown.
Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images

This game started out well, and then went pear-shaped in a hurry.

Jake Odorizzi struck out two of the first three batters he faced, getting Mookie Betts swinging on a frontdoor cutter/slider, and putting away Dustin Pedroia on a low splitter, after having raised his eye level with a fastball.

And the Rays seemed like they were seeing Boston starter Drew Pomeranz well. Wilson Ramos lead off the bottom of the second inning with a walk, and then Brad Miller, in his first at bat back from the disabled list, shot a line drive into left field to put runners on second and third with no outs.

Trevor Plouffe struck out, but there was still a man at third with less than one out. Mallex Smith was up. Let’s consider:

  • With a runner at third, it’s important to put the ball in play.
  • Drew Pomeranz is a left-handed pitcher who, over his career, has a pretty large platoon split. Mallex Smith is a left-handed batter.
  • Mallex Smith is a very good bunter.
  • Everybody knows that Mallex Smith is a very good bunter.
  • Wilson Ramos is a gigantic catcher, recently returned from knee surgery. It’s safe to assume he’s not especially quick or fast out there at third.

Should Smith bunt in this situation? Safety squeeze? Suicide squeeze?

Probably not. You can’t evaluate a decision like that on the outcome of a single play, but so far the empirical evidence says “no.”

Smith did bunt, down the first base line. It was bunted hard enough to not be playable by the pitcher, but Mitch Moreland—a good fielder at first base—anticipated the play and charged hard. He would have had Ramos dead to rights at home plate. Ramos tried to return to third, but Moreland threw behind him. The Red Sox tagged Ramos and caught Miller in a rundown to end the inning.

No, I Don’t Believe In Momentum, But . . .

Following the abrupt reversal of fortunes, Tzu-Wei Lin dropped a line drive into short center for a single, and was advanced to second with a sacrifice bunt. Betts hit a fastball, elevated but in the zone, for a hard RBI double to center, and came home himself when Andrew Benintendi singled through the right.

Odorizzi tried to jam Pedroia but didn’t manage to actually get the fastball inside, and Pedroia did what he needed to with the mistake, hitting it into the left-field seats and stretching the lead to 4-0.

A fifth inning leadoff home run by Jackie Bradley Jr. pushed the lead to five.

The Offense That Doesn’t Quit, Part One

Brian Anderson talked a ton this game about how the Rays offense doesn’t go away, doesn’t get discouraged, and doesn’t give away at bats when they’re down. That’s true. It’s also probably just a different way of saying that the Rays offense (owners of a 107 wRC+, meaning that they have been on the whole 7% above average, and third-best in the American League) is pretty good.

Either way, in the fourth inning they showed it. With one out, Logan Morrison (not an All-Star) walked. Wilson Ramos showed off his strength by scorching a fastball on the outside to the wall in straight center for a double, while Morrison showed off his relative speed for a power hitter by scoring from first. Brad Miller singled home Ramos to shrink the deficit to a manageable three runs.

The Rays Need Jake Odorizzi To Be Better

Having just gotten themselves back into the game, the Rays needed Odorizzi to keep the door shut on the Red Sox for a little while longer. He could not, and the way he could not was especially frustrating.

After getting the first out, he lost the ability to throw a strike. Down in the count, he gave an elevated fastball that Pedroia could handle for a single. Then he walked Moreland, despite being gifted a call on the 3-0 pitch to extend the at bat. Then he walked Hanley Ramirez, bringing Jim Hickey out to chat, likely about how to get a ground ball. But it didn’t matter, as he walked Bradley Jr., bringing in the run and ending his night.

Chase Whitley did get a ground ball, but it wasn’t hit hard enough for Miller to start a double play, and one more run scored before Whitley got out of the inning.

The Offense That Doesn’t Quit, Part Oof

A 7-2 deficit in the fifth inning is a pretty big hole, but it was reasonable to think that the Rays would be able to get to Pomeranz at some point, and the third time through the order is as good a time as any, better than most.

Steven Souza Jr. lead off with a chopped infield single, and while Corey Dickerson struck out, Evan Longoria found a hole in the left side of the infield for a single of his own. Logan Morrison walked to load the bases for Wilson Ramos.

This was a good situation. Ramos has looked great recently, and as a righty with very real power, he’s exactly who I’d like up with the bases loaded against a fading Pomeranz. He hit the ball, hard.

Really very hard.

Like, jump out of your seat assuming it’s a two-run double into the corner hard.

But it was straight at third-baseman Deven Marrero, reaching him on a short hop for a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.

At this point, the Rays offense had to be hoping for another shot at Pomeranz, and they got it. A Brad Miller walk and a Trevor Plouffe hard line drive made it interesting, but Benintendi made a fine defensive play in left field, and the bottom of the Rays order mustered nothing else.

The Offense That Doesn’t Quit, Part I Really Wish Ramos’s Earlier Double Play Had Been A Hit And Also This One Too, But No, This One Wasn’t Close

With Pomeranz out of the game, Souza led off the seventh inning against reliever Heath Hembree with a home run to straight center.

Dickerson flicked a groundball to third that Marrero couldn’t handle, and then hustled it into a double. Evan Longoria singled to put runners at the corners.

This was, once more, a good situation for the Rays, with Logan Morrison up to face a righty in a big spot. And frankly, he got his pitch to hit. But he missed. Sometimes that happens when one’s pitch to hit is a 96 mph fastball at the top of the strike zone.

With Ramos up next, Boston manager John Farrell swapped Hembree out for Matt Barnes, and was rewarded when Barnes’s breaking ball drew a ground ball down the third base line that turned into another inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. This was the normal kind, not the “shucks that was almost really good” kind.

There was more Rays threats in the eighth inning. There were not more Rays runs.

Some other notes:

  • Miller was partly at fault for getting doubled off on Smith’s bunt in the second. It almost happened to him again in the fourth, when Smith hit a line drive into right field. It hung up, and was always going to be an out, but Miller got a terrible read, and was thrown behind. Lin couldn’t hold the low throw, but if he had, Miller was out by a mile.
  • Corey Dickerson has been good against lefties this year, but tonight Pomeranz dominated him. He was able to power his fastball by him regularly. It’s something Pomeranz can do to lefties. It’s just not something we’re used to seeing with Dickerson. On the day, he struck out four times.
  • Odorizzi showed exactly what he thought about his work today as he walked back to the dugout after being pulled in the fifth.
  • Home plate umpire Jerry Meals did not have a good day of it either, giving an inconsistent zone to both teams.
  • Good work from Chase Whitley in relief today. He went two and two thirds innings, giving up only two hits, and striking out three batters.
  • Brad Miller reached base four times, with a single, a double, and two walks.
  • Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a foul ball into the dirt, and then hit it again on the bounce with his backswing. Weird, and cool.
  • Brian Anderson in the 9th inning: “Did I read a stat where—and I may be totally off base with this but at this point I could care less—. . .” I feel ya, buddy.