It is hard to win games when you score one run. I’m not sure what else I can say.
The Rays have had anemic offense this series, and today continued that trend.
With his 5.83 ERA and lower velocity, Felix Hernandez is not the King Felix of yesteryear, yet he dominated the Rays today. Only Brad Miller managed an extra base hit; his fourth inning double scored Daniel Robertson, and that was the Rays run. It was fun to have a lead for a whole four innings!
The Rays did have a few other chances, thanks to a few stray singles, a walk and two hit batters. They failed to capitalize, however. Perhaps the most frustrating inning was the fifth. Johnny Field led off with infield single, followed by a Jesus Sucre single. Mallex Smith then sac bunted them over to second and third. Here’s a play I really don’t like. Mallex isn’t a pitcher or a defense-only catcher. He’s a lefty facing a righty. It’s not as though Murderers’ Row is hitting behind him.
Is the sacrifice bunt really the go-to strategy there? Some of my DRB colleagues think it wasn’t a bad play because Mallex has been struggling of late, and his speed gives him a decent chance of beating out the bunt for a hit. On the other hand, Sucre’s speed at first also increases the chance for a double play. At any rate, unless the infield defense is begging the hitter to try to bunt, I think you want your hitter trying to drive in a run, not give up an out, in that situation.
C.J. Cron was next up; he was hit by a pitch right around the wrist which is not a place where you want to take a pitch, even if it’s “only” at 88 mph (he was subsequently removed from the game, x-rays were negative and he’s considered day to day). That loaded the bases with one out. Joey Wendle then struck out on four off speed pitches, none of which were in the strike zone. A very dispiriting at bat. Matt Duffy, after going to a full count, grounded out to end the inning. You can’t win them all but here was an inning with, to my mind, two wasted at bats.
That one run as all the scoring in this game while Blake Snell plowed through the Mariners line up (see more on Snell below) for six innings.
After Snell was removed from the game, the Rays got through the seventh inning with a combination of Chaz Roe and Johnny Venters. Jose Alvarado came in to pitch the eighth.
While Alvarado can’t be accused of lacking stuff today - he did strike out the side — he struggled with control and also contributed to a fielding gaffe.
He started the inning by walking Ryon Healy. Guillermo Heredia laid down a bunt, which Alvardo fielded a bit slowly. Maybe he was trying to figure out whether he had a play at second? But he hesitated and then had to fire a throw to Miller at first base, which Miller could not handle. The error was on Miller for failing to scoop the throw, but really both contributed to the botched play. Healy made it to third, with Heredia safe at first. Next pitch Denard Span singled to right field, and the game was tied. And then a Dee Gordon single and suddenly Seattle had the lead.
Seattle closer Edwin Diaz came in for the easy one inning save, and Seattle had completed the sweep.
The disappointing outcome should not, however, keep us from acknowledging Blake Snell’s performance.
Playing in front of his Seattle area friends and family for the first time as a professional, Snell was pretty much unhittable. His final line: six innings, two singles allowed (one an infield single to Dee Gordon) no walks (!!!!) and twelve strike outs (!!!!).
He was throwing all his pitches with authority, getting swinging strikes on a variety of offerings. He struck out the first seven hitters faced (tying an American League record), and didn’t allow a base runner until the fourth.
The only problem, if you want to call it that, with his performance was that it takes a lot of pitches to strike out twelve players, especially since he had deep counts on many of them. By the end of the sixth he was at 100 pitches and, with Rays pitchers dropping like flies, Cash decided not to push his pitch count.
But seeing his dominant performance made clear how impressively he has emerged as a top of the line pitcher. Kevin Cash, commenting on Snell’s development before the game, told DRB’s Darby Robinson:
“The way he’s matured from start to start, and realizes that he doesn’t always have to have all his best weapons to go out and compete to give us a chance to win...When he does have those weapons, we are gonna win games”
“He’s responded well to adversity. You’re gonna have adversity in every single start. Somethings going to pop up. Whether it’s a play not being made, a tight call, or you hanging a breaking ball and it gets knocked out of the ballpark. I think Blake has done a really good job with accepting some of those things and then moving on. Not letting it affect him the next pitch and the next batter, and that’s a sign of a guy maturing”
Not his fault that the offense couldn’t score and the bullpen couldn’t hold the slender lead.
Let’s just say that Seattle, which sounds like a great place to visit, is not kind to the Rays.
The team last won there in 2015; they have subsequently been swept in their brief visits to the Emerald City in 2016, 2017 and now 2018. If three close losses are not discouraging enough, we can add injuries to Archer (who is not sure whether he’ll be able to make his next start) and Cron, plus some health issues that have kept pitching coach Kyle Snyder away from the stadium, making this feel like a doomed weekend indeed.
But don’t worry, the Rays next face Max Scherzer in Washington, DC, and the offense is bound to look better!