This was a fittingly frustrating game to end a frustrating series.
The Rays finally got some strong pitching, kept Oakland from getting the free base through walks, and sure enough, it was OF defense of all things that doomed them early. After another early deficit, the team just couldn’t seem to get anything going and get the luck to swing back in their favor.
Sometimes a series just starts on a bad note and it never improves. But the best thing about baseball: there’s a whole heck of a lot of it.
This game contained two strike-throwing southpaws dueling, who to both of their credits, worked quick and moved this game along. About all you can ask for on a getaway day game!
Josh Fleming in the 2nd inning got the weak contact grounders, but this time the hits had eyes and found just enough space to get him into quick trouble. After a missed check-swing kept Christian Pache alive, another seeing-eye grounder found it’s way past shortstop, into the outfield and splitting Randy and KK all the way to the wall for a bases-clearing inside the park 3-run HR.
Might have needed that extra week of Spring Training afterall.
Unlucky for Fleming, but that’s been the name of the game for the Rays all series.
Rays decided to mix it up and emulate the A’s: hit it weaker and worse! And it worked with two hits, setting up Manny Margot to drive a rocket shot single to get the Rays on the board. Unfortunately A Mike Zunino deep fly to the RF wall lead to a bit of an overboogie from Margot to get thrown out trying to advance 1st to 2nd. KK would ground out weakly to end the threat and keep the Rays in the hole 3-1.
Wander Franco almost made a spectacular play, running to his right and doing a leap throw across the diamond, but Yandy Diaz was unable to make the pick. That would immediately come back to hurt the Ryas as Sean Murphy continued his hot bat, scorching another double, this time with an RBI over a leaping Kiermaier attempt. Josh Fleming deserved better than what his team offered him today.
Josh Fleming went 3 ⅓ IP got 12 whiffs 6Ks and 1 BB. With some better-batted ball luck or just some competent defense, this game would have been a different story for Fleming. Overall though, results only tell one part of the story, and this was a very encouraging performance as Fleming builds up his length and takes a place in this rotation.
By the 3rd inning, it seemed the Rays bats seemed to have been put on the luggage rack to Chicago early. The Rays failed to record a single baserunner from the 3rd inning on until a 7th inning bloop double from Harold Ramirez broke the 3 up, 3 down streak of Cole Irvin.
Here’s how bad this series was for the Rays just focused on one at-bat: Cole Irvin had 0 whiffs until the 3rd inning. Not one swing and miss. UNTIL, he faced Wander Franco in the bottom of the 3rd where he got him to swing and miss 3 straight times for the K. Wander Franco swinging wild, free and missing everything vs a guy who cannot miss a bat. The fates wanted Oakland to win this series and there’s nothing you can do to fight against that except make 27 outs as quick as possible and move on to tomorrow.
We did get to see Phoenix Sanders make his debut. Or should I say, rise? No, no I shouldn’t. I’ll save the puns and references for a more fun game.
Anyway, Phoenix Sanders first pitch lead to a Sheldon Neuse 61.4 MPH EV dribbler that just beat the shift for a single. Of course it did.
After that, a walk and a single followed, and the bases were loaded. Phoenix dug deep and from out of the ashes (okay I lied about the puns and references) Sanders was able to induce a tailor-made double play and follow that up with a K to escape the threat with just 1 run scored.
Phoenix Sanders finished his major league debut with 3 IP 2 H 1 BB 2 K and just the 1 ER, and some much-needed inning eating.
The Rays were able to make the final score look a bit nicer with this towering Brandon Lowe bomb:
We weren't kidding with the "Be aware of flying balls" sign on that fence pic.twitter.com/fMKlk4YDNf— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 14, 2022
Just a very lackluster game overall from the Rays, but also just a ton of bad luck. All series Oakland was able to outscore the Rays despite the Rays wildly outperforming the A’s in quality of contact and hard-hit balls. The Rays pitching on this getaway day performed admirably.
Fleming, Jeffrey Springs, Sanders, and Jalen Beeks combined for 12 K, 4 ER and 3 BB. With Phoenix Sanders becoming already the 20th pitcher the Rays have used on the season, it’s encouraging to see this quartet able to put together a full-quality game.