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Rays 0 Cleveland 5: Once more we are tipping our caps

In which we are treated to one half of a great pitching duel

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The story of this game: Carlos Carrasco carried a no-hitter into the seventh. If I were a bigger person, I would be able to appreciate his very fine pitching performance. He had been nearly perfect before Logan Morrison’s seventh inning single, having walked Steven Souza, Jr earlier. True baseball fans are supposed to savor such things. True baseball fans can relish the artistry.

I, however, am not a true baseball fan. I’m a Rays fan and I still hold out hope that this team will somehow find their way to a wild card slot in 2017. So Carrasco’s pitching mastery was not, to me, artistry. It was just depressing.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s rewind to the beginning.

Anticipating pitching match-up

This figured to be an interesting pitching match up.

Both JT Morgan and Jim Turvey have pointed at the Faria’s walk rate had been creeping up toward his minor league rates, so I was interested to see whether he could get back to limiting free passes. Carlos Carrasco is an often terrifice pitcher who has been struggling a bit of late. As Dewayne and Brian Anderson noted on the broadcast, he pitches much better on the road, and that has certainly been the case against the Rays. While the Rays had hit him hard earlier this year in Cleveland, he has pitched some really impressive games at the Trop over the last few years (after tonight, his Trop ERA over four starts is 1.11).

And at first, both pitchers seemed to be at the top of their games.

For the first four innings both Carrasco and Faria were perfect.

Both pitchers were sharp, throwing first pitch strikes,mixing low to mid 90s fastballs with curves, sliders and change ups. Although their lines were similar, however, Carrasco was the stronger performer. He has the advantage of a few ticks more velocity on the fastball, and he was getting only weak contact. Faria, on the other hand, got lucky with a line drive caught by Logan Morrison and a few deeper fly balls tracked down by his outfielders. Still, Faria, like Carrasco, was cruising.

Things fall apart, the center cannot hold

The game changed dramatically in the top of the fifth inning, with a combination of pitching mistakes, fielding mishaps and plain bad luck.

Edward Encarnacion led off with a home run, which was followed by a single and a walk. With two on and none out, Yan Gomes popped up a bunt which unfortunately Ramos was unable to catch, loading the bases.

A Brad Zimmer RBI sac fly made it 2-0. A hard hit ground ball to Longo seemed to have the makings of an inning ending double play but instead it hit him hard and awkwardly on the wrist, becoming a run scoring single (and necessitating a visit from the trainer and his departure from the game an inning later). Another walk, a run scoring grounder (that also looked like it had double play potential but was bobbled by Longoria, perhaps affected by the injured wrist), and a hard hit ball that eluded Brad Miller and went for a run scoring double resulted in Cleveland putting up a very crooked number indeed. At the end of the fifth they led, 5-0.

The dreaded No Hitter Alert

Unfortunately the Rays were not able to replicate the Cleveland offensive output in their half of the inning, so by the end of the fifth the Rays were trailing and our friends at MLB were posting the dreaded red “No Hitter Alert” on the scoreboard.

In the Rays half of the seventh, hallelujah, Logan Morrison lined a single, ending the no hitter threat. We were back to merely facing a depressing loss. There was even a glimmer of hope. After Morrison’s single, Steven Souza Jr. walked. Brad Miller then hit a long fly ball into 162 landing, but just to the wrong side of the foul pole. Instead of a three-run bomb it was just a long strike, and he eventually struck out to end the “threat.”

The Rays bullpen combo of Jose Alvarado, Dan Jennings and Brad Boxberger prevented any further scoring, but the Rays’ inability to mount any sort of offense (they would end the game with two walks and two singles) made this moot.

Concluding thoughts

  • It was eventually announced that Longoria had thumb contusion but nothing broken, so he will be day to day.
  • In the first inning Steven Souza Jr. ran for a foul ball, getting to it but stumbling at the last minute unable to catch it. It is a reminder of the difficulties of having bullpens on the field – I don’t know if the bullpen was the reason for his stumble but you have to imagine that outfielders are distracted wondering if they are about to trip over a pitcher’s mound.
  • Speaking of outfielders, Cleveland center fielder Brad Zimmer seemed to have his issues under the dome, although none were costly. In several cases as he chased down fly balls he held up his arms in a gesture that means “where did it go?”, only to find the ball finally and catch it.
  • There are hardly any times when sliding to first makes any sense (and Kevin Kiermaier’s broken hip is a cautionary tale) but Mallex Smith’s eighth inning infield hit was one time when sliding would make sense (although a replay showed that Smith would probably have been called out had Cleveland challenged).