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Rays 1, Phillies 2: Rays lose another nailbiter

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Despite quality pitching.

Philadelphia Phillies v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Jacob Faria walked the first batter he faced, and Rays fans everywhere began to worry. Spring was hard on Faria, and he was chased early from his last outing. But the second-year pitcher gets a lot of the credit for keeping the Rays close in yet another one-run loss, and deserves very little of the blame.

After that leadoff walk, Faria pitched a gem, locating his fastball around the edges of the zone and working good sliders and splitters off it. His final line goes down as one earned run in five and a third innings, with only two hits, seven strikeouts, and one walk. He threw 78 pitches.

For much of his outing, Faria was protecting a one run lead. In the bottom of the second inning, C.J. Cron grounded a single up the middle, and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. He scored when Mallex Smith flared a line drive into short left field. Cron is not fast, and he sure didn’t look it rounding third, but with two outs he was running on contact so he was able to make it home well ahead of the throw.

The Rays had a great chance to add to their lead in the fourth inning, but they were done in by a bout of the overboogie. Joey Wendle stood on first base with two outs when Matt Duffy hit a fly ball to the right-field foul line, just fair, medium deep. It was an easy, sure out, until right fielder Aaron Alther dropped it.

The problem was that Duffy was hustling the whole way. Had he lollygagged, he’d have ended up safely at first, but instead he was in a position to try for two. Alther’s throw just caught him (with a better, more direct slide Duffy would have been safe). The out was made at second before Wendle could score from first, ending the inning.

Giving Up the Lead While Pitching Well

Faria got the first out of the sixth inning on a strikeout, but the next batter, J. P. Crawford, came up with a good piece of hitting, muscling a low and outside curve into the gap for a double. Ryan Yarbrough was set to come in, but with the one-run game now hanging in the balance, the Rays instead got Jose Alvarado up and warming, and started wasting time.

First catcher Wilson Ramos came out to chat, before being joined by pitching coach Kyle Snyder. When Faria finally pitched, his first pitch was a backdoor slider, close but called a ball. His second pitch should really have been a strike.

But was not.

At that point, I think the Rays went with an unintentional intentional walk, with Faria dancing off the edge of the plate with two fastballs and pulling no chases. Alvarado was ready, and manager Kevin Cash made the switch.

Alvarado’s first pitch was a 100 mph fastball on the outer edge to Carlos Santana. It was a good pitch, poorly struck, lined softly to right off the end of Santana’s bat. It was hard to tell if Carlos Gomez had any chance to sell out for the catch, but he elected not to, pulling up to keep the ball in front of him. The problem was the spin.

Coming off the end of Santana’s bat, this line drive had serious spin. Bouncing off the hard trop turf it took a crazy hop over and to the left of Gomez. One run scored, and when the little rubber turf pellets settled, runners stood at second and third.

Sometimes bad things happen when a team puts the ball in play, so Alvarado decided he wasn’t going to let the Phillies put any more balls into play. Against two left-handed batters (sandwhiched around an intentional walk), he buried his slider in the dirt, over and over, and they could not hold up. The inning was over, but the game was tied.

Giving Up the Tie While Pitching Better

Chaz Roe and Sergio Romo pitched the seventh and eighth inning respectively, and did their thing well. Roe’s slider movement was as ridiculous as ever, and he switched his position on the rubber back and forth, as we’ve now become accustom to seeing him do.

When Romo came in, his command was nearly perfect. He painted the corners at will. The one hit against him was a softly tapped squib that Duffy couldn’t quite barehand. He only threw one pitch that wasn’t exactly where he wanted it to be, and the result was a fly ball to center field that Kevin Kiermaier had well covered.

With the Rays unable to score against the efficient and impressive Vince Velasquez and a series of Philadelphia relievers, they turned the ninth inning over to closer Alexander Colomé, who has struggled to start the 2018 season.

I’ve been very focused on Colomé recently, and it would be tempting to fit this into a narrative of continued degragation for the 2016 relief ace. What I will say, regarding process, is that Wilson Ramos consistently set his mitt on the corner, down and away, and Alex Colomé consistently missed that location. The command was not great.

But, like, if you didn’t fixate so much on the location of the catcher’s glove, what Colome actually threw was pretty dang good. He was ahead in the count all the time. He struck out the side. It probably should have been a scoreless inning.

I give major credit to Scott Kingery, batting with one out.

After getting ahead in the count 0-2, the second pitch being a swinging strike on an outside cutter, Colome went with a 96 mph, well above the zone. The rookie lined it to the wall for a double. That’s really not supposed to happen.

Two batters later, Colome missed his location and put a cutter frontdoor, when he meant it to be down and away. It caught too much plate, and Jorge Alfaro pulled it between shortstop and third. A diving Duffy deflected it, and Hechavarria could not track the altered route. The grounder went into left field and the run scored.

Some other notes:

  • The first pitch to C.J. Cron was a frontdoor breaking ball that stayed up and in, almost hitting him. Cron didn’t flinch. After the pitch, he waved his elbow, and shook his head regretfully at not being able to get something in front of the pitch. It was funny. Cron is no Brandon Guyer, but he does carry an above-average HBP rate of around 1.3% (Guyer’s is an absurd 5.7%).
  • Odubel Herrera is funny too. When a pitcher throws him a ball outside and he sees it well, he points at where it was. I could see some umpires taking exception to this, but it seems pretty good natured.
  • Leading off the bottom of the eigth inning, Adeiny Hechavarria hit a liner the other way into the right-center gap, but the Phillies had an interesting shift on. The right and leftfielders were fairly normal, but Herrera, the center fielder, was standing directly in that gap. He barely had to move. Not an outfield shift you often see.
  • Wilson Ramos picked another batter off first today. His offense has been slow to get started this season, but his defense ahs been spot on.