Well they are certainly consistent, our Rays. Since August began, they have averaged 2 runs a game on offense, which doesn’t lead to many wins, even when your pitchers have been pretty darned good.
Tonight continued the sad pattern we have seen. Strong starting pitching, effective relief, and nearly no scoring.
Our offense fails in several different ways. Some nights the Rays are lucky to scrape together a base runner or two. Other nights they have opportunities but fail to capitalize on them. I can’t decide which feels worse.
In this game, all the scoring came in the first two innings.
Odorizzi started off by walking Jose Bautista. While Joey Bats has lost a great deal of his offensive production, he continues to have a good eye, and in fact he walked three times tonight.
Josh Donaldson and Odorizzi next battled through a long full count, during which the television broadcast noted Odo’s tendency to be tagged with a ton of foul balls. We quickly learned, however, that there are worse things for a pitcher than giving up foul balls in extended at bats, as Donaldson ended the encounter with a homer to right field that just cleared the fence. 2-0 Blue Jays.
At this point, however, the Despair of August had not yet settled in. And indeed the Rays hitters seemed to be seeing the ball well. To start the second, Steven Souza, Jr. and Brad Miller each hit a long fly ball to the warning track. I swear during this bad period it is as though a giant fan is blowing Rays fly balls back into play. But while Souza and Miller fell just short, Wilson Ramos got those extra two feet, reaching for a tough slider at shin level, and hitting it well over the center field fence. The Jays lead was cut to 2-1.
Odorizzi was pretty good after stumbling with the first two batters, going six innings. He did walk three — not a great thing to do when you are home run prone -- but gave up just three hits. Although he only struck out four, he was getting his whiffs, especially on his cutter. Always a fly ball pitcher, he seemed especially so tonight, and especially in the early going -- really they could have sent one of the infielders out for pizza and he would not have been missed; I think he had one ground out in the first four innings.
The bullpen was strong as well, as we have become accustomed to seeing, with Sergio Romo, Brad Boxberger and Dan Jennings teaming for two hits and one (intentional) walk over two innings.
But the Rays just couldn’t seem to make contact when they needed to. Thanks to four walks and two hit by pitches as well as three hits besides the Ramos home run they did have opportunities. One of their best scoring chances came in the fourth inning. Toronto starter Nick Tepesch walked Miller and Ramos at hit Robertson on the small of the back, loading the bases with two outs.
This brought the pitching coach out for a chat and Corey Dickerson to the plate against a floundering righty who seemed to have his back to the wall. Dickerson got to a 2-1 hitters count and then took a pitch just outside that in what seems to be an act of umpire mercy gets called a strike, making the count 2-2 rather than 3-1. He then hit a ball to a deep part of right field, but an easy play for Bautista to end the inning.
There was one interesting play in the Rays half of the seventh inning. Peter Bourjos was hit by a pitch and Daniel Robertson walked. Dickerson then hit an infield flare, which Goins fielded on a short bounce and tossed to second. Jays second baseman Rob Refnsyder caught the toss and stepped on the bag, forcing Robertson, and then moved to tag Bourjos, who had remained standing on second base the whole time. There was no further play at first.
The umpires called both Bourjos and Robertson out. However, after consulting with umpires at MLS headquarters they changed the call; Robertson was out but Bourjos was safe. The Blue Jays missed their chance for a double play by getting their outs in the wrong order. By stepping on the base for the force on Robertson first, they removed any force on Bourjos, who could then simply stay on the base. Had they tagged Bourjos first and then forced Robertson they would indeed have managed the double play.
How lovely it would have been to capitalize on this misplay, but instead Lucas Duda struck out and Evan Longoria popped up, wasting this opportunity.