SO MANY RUNS. Small ball runs. Massive dinger runs. While the Rays led throughout, Baltimore didn’t go quietly.
Rather than trying to recap the getting of twenty runs between two teams, let me hit the highlights.
Chris Archer. First, Rays fans are all curious to see how Archer would do. I think it is safe to say no one knows what to expect out of Chris Archer this year. That was true when the Rays signed him of course. He had missed time to injury and even when healthy his tenure with the Pirates had not been successful. This year he’s shown some promise — the good slider, a little bit of giddyup on the fastball - but has lost so much time to injury that all we’ve had have been glimpses.
Today’s game probably didn’t resolve those questions. In his first inning, Archer was probably lucky to escape having given up just one run, with a slider that did not have much action on it.
His pitches looked more convincing in the second and third innings. The fastball ticked up to 93 and more, and the slider looked sharper. Unfortunately one of those higher velocity fastballs didn’t fool Ryan Mountcastle, who hit it out for the second Baltimore run. Indeed Mountcastle seemed to have Archer’s number, with the home run and the single both hit extremely hard.
Archer even hit 95 once today, something we haven’t seen in a while:
After allowing a HR, Archer is pissed off. The 1st 95.1 mph. #Rays pic.twitter.com/3KmwKdEAWt— Homin Lee (@Homein22) August 29, 2021
Archer was pulled after four innings; he had given up two runs on four hits, but the reason for optimism may be his six strikeouts and 13 whiffs.
Josh Fleming. Fleming came in for the sixth with a four run lead. I’m sure the plan was to let this multi-inning guy finish out the game. But he did not have it today. At first he struggled to find the strike zone. The result: a lead off walk and a two-run homer to make the score 6-4. His teammates added four runs in the seventh to make the score 10-4, so that should put the game away, right? Not quite, Fleming continued to give up hits — mostly singles but still, five hits allowed in 1.1 innings is...a lot of hits. Shawn Armstrong came in with one out and runners on to finish the seventh.
Interesting aside: Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson mentioned that Fleming has been much better pitching at home this year than on the road, and wow, that is certainly the case. His home ERA: 2.33. Road ERA before today: 8.06. He’s pitched just 41 innings on the road (and 58 at home) so we are still looking at a small enough sample size where a few bad innings can have an outsized impact on the numbers. Also there could be some luck involved: His home FIP is a bit over three, his road FIP a bit over 5. But still, that is quite a difference in results. Not clear if it’s just noise or if there are factors that make him more effective at Tropicana Field, which is considered a bit of a pitcher’s park.
Paul Fry Or: “poor” Paul Fry. Apparently he’s not a terrible reliever, perhaps one of the better options in a weak Baltimore bullpen. But the Rays have absolutely lit him up. Today it was a grand slam. Does it get worse than a grand slam? Well the Orioles didn’t want to find out, they pulled him after he recorded just one out. And here’s an eye opening line: this season he has thrown 1.1 innings against the Rays across multiple relief appearances. He’s given up eight hits, 17 runs (of which 15 were earned), he’s walked 11 and struck out...none. Someone calculated his ERA vs. the Rays this year to 101.25. Fry has an ERA of 6.08 but if you take out his Rays appearances it sinks to 3.40
Joey Wendle Joey’s bat had definitely cooled off since his All Star Game appearance, but today it came back in a big way. He had three hits, one walk, and six RBI. Four of these came on a grand slam (the one that ended Poor Paul Fry’s day), one on a solo HR the inning before. Every starter reached base today (Zunino is the only one who did not get a hit). Meadows and Luplow also homered, Franco continued his on-base streak with a walk and two hits.
.@JoeyWendle's second HR of the day is a grand slam, and he now has 6 RBI pic.twitter.com/WvqL9ZQQwN— MLB (@MLB) August 29, 2021
So I’d say that was a fun game, although you never want to see your bullpen give up six runs. I’m not sure whether bringing in Collin McHugh, of late a guy used in high leverage situations, to pitch the ninth reflected Cash’ concern about holding on to the four run lead, or just meant that McHugh needed to get some work in.
With Boston rained out and the RED HOT (second place) Yankees playing in the evening, the Rays currently sit on top of the division by 5.5 games.
Rays domination of the Orioles this year in perspective:
Largest run diff vs single opponent in season, Divisional Era (since 1969):— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) August 29, 2021
1974 Dodgers vs Padres: +82
2021 Rays vs Orioles: +79
2019 Indians vs Tigers: +78
2016 Cubs vs Reds: +74
2001 Cardinals vs Pirates: +74