clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Rays 2, Nationals 4: Having two eye colors is better than having one

The Best Pitcher in Baseball lived up to his title Tuesday night

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At least we didn’t get no-hit.

On a night when that was a distinct possibility, that was the thought throughout much of the night.

* * *

There are games when baseball makes no sense, and there are times when baseball makes perfect sense. Tuesday night was a prime example of the latter of the two.

The Best Pitcher in Baseball spent most of the night slicing through an offense that has been in the doldrums of late (Rays wRC+ ranks 22nd in baseball over past two weeks). A team that was 22-9 in their previous 31 games was able to defeat a team that had lost four in a row. A pitcher who tossed an (abbreviated) no-hitter in his return from 18 months off the diamond, looked solid, but not bulletproof, in his second game back.

The script writers were lazy on Tuesday night, but who can blame them? The season is a long one.

* * *

The game started off with both pitchers moving fast and pounding the strike zone. Both teams went down in order in the first, and the Rays did the same in the top half of the second.

In the home half, Matt Adams ended Nathan Eovaldi’s running no-hitter (from his previous outing) at seven combined innings, as he worked a nine-pitch at bat that ended with the ball in the right field bleachers.

The Nats then put two infield hits on either side of a poke up the middle to make it 2-0 in the second, which already felt like a big lead with the way Scherzer was going.

For many Rays fans, the third inning was both a sigh of relief and sadly a high point of the game, as Johnny Field broke up the no-hitter with a double to left. And if you think it’s a bit premature to say “broke up the no-hitter in the third,” then you clearly missed what Scherzer looked like tonight. The no-no was definitely on the table. When Eovaldi came up next and sliced one the other way, it looked like it might be the bit of luck the Rays would need on a night like this. But the -53 wRC+ career hitter had no such luck, and Eovaldi’s liner was right at the second baseman, allowing Scherzer to escape the inning with Field stuck on second base.

The Nats got to Eovaldi again in the fourth, when the speed from the bottom half of their lineup came around to haunt the Rays. A leadoff walk to Juan Soto came back to bite Eovaldi, as, one batter later, he gave up a shot in the gap to Wilmer Difo, which brought Soto all the way around from first and left Difo on third. A wild pitch eventually brought Difo home, and the four runs for Washington were enough to keep the Rays at arm’s length for a good chunk of the game.

The middle innings were a blur of low-pitch-count innings from Scherzer, as he turned it into the type of game where you’d go to the fridge to get a snack during the commercial break, and, when you came back, he’d already have a strikeout and be up 0-1 on the next batter.

The Rays finally made their move in the eighth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles from Matt Duffy and Carlos Gomez. However, back-to-back strikeouts from Mallex Smith and Johnny Field seemed to quell the rally.

However, Brad Miller must have either: A) known that the proud owner of property on Miller Mountain was going to be writing this recap, or B) seen Carl Gonzalez’s article from early in the day, because he blasted a shot over center fielder Michael Taylor’s head, bringing around Duffy and Gomez to cut the Nationals seemingly invincible lead in half. It was downright Spartan.

But like the Spartans, the Rays fell shortly after drawing blood, going down 1-2-3 in the ninth, their fifth straight loss, bringing them to 28-31 on the season. This is already their third losing streak of five of more games this season.

Random tidbits:

  • Both pitchers were absolutely pounding the zone all night. Scherzer threw 78 percent strikes, but Eovaldi was basically as strong in that regard coming in at 77 percent of his pitches being called strikes.
  • Scherzer also got ahead of 25 of the first 26 batters he faced in the game. Yeah, he was locked in.
  • Sticking with the “wow, that Scherzer fellow is pretty good” theme, he had an immaculate inning (nine pitches, three strikeouts) in the sixth, and he didn’t reach his first three-ball count until the seventh.
  • Wilson Ramos got a really nice ovation from the Washington crowd (lead picture for this recap). Nice, classy move from the DMV.
  • One final note: the strikeout to Mallex Smith with no one out and men on first and second in the eighth was a TERRIBLE call. Now, I’m always one to figure those types of calls even out — plus Scherzer was ahead 0-2 in the count — but even still, that was a frustrating one, and I don’t blame Mallex at all for being ejected over arguing the call.
  • The Rays and Nats face off in Game 2 of the series tomorrow at 1:05 EST.