It’s the stuff of nightmares for fans and for players.
It’s an early inning. First, second, fourth. One of your top starters is on the mound. He grimaces after a pitch. Maybe just a tweak? He squats awkwardly after another pitch. Just needs to stretch? And then he stumbles, pain etched on his face.
I can still remember that awful sense of dread watching Tyler Glasnow shake his right arm uncomfortably last year. And tonight it was El Electrico, Luis Patiño, who left the mound, trainer at his side, looking grim. Yes, the Rays have pitching depth but no, we don’t want one of our starters, a young guy seemingly poised for success, to be out. Left oblique strain was the report. Glad it’s not an elbow or a shoulder, but oblique strains can keep a pitcher out for a couple of months.
Patiño had given up a double and gotten two outs before his departure; the Rays brought in Chris Mazza as first of what would be a loonnngg bullpen day. Mazza hit the first batter he faced and gave up a really really long home run to Seth Brown to put the Rays in the hole, 3-0. And then it got worse as Mazza got behind Chad Pinder and eager to get a strike served up yet another home run ball. I was surprised that Mejia did not pay Mazza a visit somewhere in this mess, just to help him take a few seconds break.
Mazza did not get much better in the second. Do you really want to know how the runs scored? It involved lots of falling behind batters, a number of well hit balls, and Taylor Walls kicking a grounder into the outfield. 5-0, 8-0. A great catch on what might have been a triple by Brett Phillips helped put us out of our misery:
Mazza had a mercifully uneventful third inning, but in the fourth things once again went south. Another run scored, and Mazza left with two outs and bases loaded, leaving JP Feyereisen to get the last out of the inning and keep the deficit at “just” nine runs. If we are looking for silver linings, Feyereisen, Thompson and Adam were all sharp.
And then in the 8th came the moment we were all waiting for, the moment we suspected was coming with the A’s scoring 9 unanswered runs: it was time for Brett Phillips to take the mound. His first inning was about as efficient as you can get. Fly out, infield hit, double play. All on what Gameday called 46 mph sliders. Boom.
But Cash got greedy, sending Phillips out for that second inning. He gave up a grand slam to make the score 13-2, but he also got an out this way:
The Rays cleverly realized there is no point in wasting offense in a loss, so they pretty much stayed off the bases, scattering a few singles. Except, of course, for Wander who apparently didn’t get the memo and got three hits, including a hustle double in the eighth, followed by a hustle score from second on a bloop single. Even a blowout can’t take away his joy in playing or our joy in watching him.
We all knew the team would have to lose at some point, and I guess a game where you lose your starter 3 batters in will likely be one of those days. I remember last year there was a game where the Rays got completely thrashed by the Red Sox — I believe the Sox scored 20 runs — and I recall thinking that the important thing was not how badly they lost — ultimately it doesn’t matter - but how they responded. And indeed the 2021 Rays came back the next day to beat the Red Sox. So my feeling about this unfortunate game is: let’s see how they bounce back on Tuesday.