The Rays are playing winning teams for most of the last weeks of the season, so they are hoping to get a few easier wins against the Texas Rangers this weekend. That didn’t happen tonight.
Just a note of caution — my colleague Adam Sanford has predicted that former Ray Nate Lowe, as part of his “why did you trade me and demote my brother” tour, would hit at least four home runs in these three games.
The Rays certainly got their hits against Rangers starter Martin Perez, with two runs in the second inning, but the Rangers responded with a four-run third, which included a two-run homer from the aforementioned Mr. Lowe (one down, three to go). Although Kluber’s line, 5.2 innings with four runs and nine hits, is not exactly a quality start, he was at least not the punching bag he’d been against the Yankees the previous week. Should the Rays manage to get a Wild Card spot it will be interesting to see what, if any, role Kluber has on a postseason roster.
The Rays tacked on one more run in the sixth, but despite several more hits and walks in subsequent innings they could not score. They even loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but to no avail.
This was a disappointing loss against a theoretically much weaker team, but I can’t generate much anger about it. I’m sorry Kluber gave up four runs, but he wasn’t terrible, and the bullpen arms that followed him — Cleavinger, Poche and Chargois — were perfect. The Rays had ten hits, two hit by pitches and three walks so there were a lot of opportunities, but as has been common of late the hits were nearly all singles (Mejia had two doubles). It takes a lot of luck to score runs on singles! You need to string together at least three of them, possibly four, before you make your third out and that doesn’t happen often. Today, the Rays left 12 runners on base and went 2 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Ouch.
When the Rays are going well there is a lot of discussion about their balanced offense and how they aren’t just depending on the home run, but games like this make me remember how nice it was last year to have several guys — Zunino, Lowe, Meadows — who were hitting balls out to the park with some frequency. The Rays are not getting that power from anyone this year and to state the obvious that makes it hard to score runs.
Kudos to Francisco Mejia, who had a hand in all three runs, and to some outstanding bullpen work. We’ll try again tomorrow.