Remember that time we were talking about the Rays being buyers at the trade deadline and, dare I say it, challenging for a playoff spot? Those good ol’ days seem to be so long gone with the way this team has played of late, and it continued in Thursday’s matinee game in Toronto.
I should qualify that, on Thursday, the main reason for the Rays’ downfall was simply the fact that . . .
Josh Donaldson is Good.
Yeah, he’s alright at baseball, I guess.
Donaldson was involved in all of the Blue Jays’ scoring plays, including doing half of the damage all by his lonesome. He socked two solo homers off of Chris Archer, one in the first inning on a hanging slider, and the second in the fifth on a dead-center fastball. After the Rays tied the game in the top of the eighth, Tommy Hunter walked Donaldson (wisely), then left a pitch right over the heart of the plate for Justin Smoak (not-so-wise) to, well, smoke into the seats in right-center.
Forgive the pun, it’s all I have after another lost series.
Under the hood, Chris Archer really wasn’t bad at all. Besides the two mistakes to Donaldson, he pitched seven efficient innings. I want to emphasize “efficient,” as he struck out ten batters without giving up a walk and only needed 105 pitches.
Now, while I might forgive the first homer to the former AL MVP as a poorly executed breaking ball, I can’t forgive the second one. You can’t make a mistake fastball to a guy who’s already beaten you once and has owned your team’s pitching all series long. Go ahead and check the pitching staff’s cleats, I bet they say “Josh” on the bottom, a la Woody in Toy Story.
Despite those mistakes, as I said, Archer wasn’t the problem. The Rays’ struggles continued on Thursday because . . .
The Offense is Bad.
Now that’s a pretty blanket statement to make for a team that racked up eleven hits and had four guys reach base at least three times.
Perhaps I should use “inefficient,” instead. But for now, after a game in which the team left 14 men on base, nine of them with two outs and in scoring position, loaded the bases twice in one inning, and still only scratched across three runs? I’m sticking with “bad.”
We probably should have expected some regression from the torrid start this offense had, and its dependence on the long ball is something that’s been noted a few times before, but the fact that the home runs have dried up and taken all of the offensive life with them is more than concerning.
This team needs to find ways to put runs across the plate in a sustainable fashion, and fast. With only six weeks left in the regular season, there’s no time left to wait around for the power to come back on.