Those three games in Toronto led me to memory hole the Rays June offense but it reappeared today. The team seemed to have two outs before the inning started; the few well struck balls were right into outfielder gloves. Kudos to Josh Fleming, who did his job (eat innings, keep team in the game). But it’s hard to do much when your offense is two singles (one of which was turned into an out) and two walks.
Both teams went with openers today, Austin Davis for the Red Sox, and Jalen Beeks for the Rays. The Red Sox got to Beeks in the second, at first quietly - a walk, an infield hit, but then Verdugo hit a solid single to load the bases and suddenly the Rays were in trouble. A great nab by Francisco Mejia prevented a run-scoring wild pitch, and allowed Beeks to come back in a full count and strike out Bobby Dalbec to end the inning.
The Rays had their own two-out threat against new pitcher Kutter Crawford. Yandy Diaz got to second when Crawford threw away a grounder back to the mound, and Franco followed with a single to put runners at second and third. But this rally also ended on a strike out.
To start the third inning, the Rays brought out Josh Fleming, recently recalled from Durham where he’d been pitching well. He was able to retire the side in order, thanks in part to his own very good fielding skills, in particular on a slow roller that required him to spin around and throw quickly to first base.
Fleming also came out strong in the fourth inning, inducing the grounders that he gets when things are going well. But he threw a change-up over the meat of the plate, and Trevor Story hit it squarely for a solo home run to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. The Red Sox got their second run the next inning with a double and a couple of bunt/ground balls to get the run in.
Fleming was quite effective but ran into trouble in the eighth, loading the bases on three singles. As a sign that the baseball gods had truly abandoned the Rays today, Verdugo had a little excuse me hit that Fleming failed to handle, which scored a run. This was called an error on Fleming, although it seemed to me like a tough play to make. That ended Fleming’s otherwise good outing. Calvin Faucher replaced him; he gave up another single to make the score 4-0. It’s interesting that Cash did not take Fleming out sooner, both a sign of confidence in Fleming but also, let’s face it, an acknowledgement that he saw the game as largely unwinnable whether the Rays went into the ninth trailing by two runs or by six runs.
A few random thoughts:
How often has Yandy Diaz, just in the past few games, been caught wandering between bases (as he was today, rounding first on a bloop that fell in)?
Isaac Paredes bobbled two playable ground balls but neither play was called an error.
Brian Anderson had a good line — it’s not enough, he noted, to say Randy Arozarena plays the game “aggressively” — he plays the game “frantically”