The Tampa Bay Rays dropped another game to the Baltimore Orioles tonight, though I am not surprised. When I first saw the line-up, I was disappointed that Carlos Pena and Matt Joyce were not playing tonight. I understand that Orioles’ pitcher Brian Matusz is a lefty and Pena and Joyce are also lefties, but seriously I’m tired of the Rays creating a whole new line-up for lefty pitchers. A few weeks ago Pena and Joyce both had several hits off a lefty pitcher, so it is possible for them to hit against lefties. And even if they do not hit, I would rather see Pena at first instead of Jeff Keppinger and Joyce in left instead of Brandon Guyer.
It was probably one of the worst Rays’ games I have seen in a while, worse than the other games this past week. In the 1st inning, Ben Zobrist got a lead-off walk, but Sean Rodriquez hit into a double play. BJ Upton singed and stole second, but his threat ended when Keppinger struck out to end the inning. In the 2nd inning, Guyer hit a homerun, making it Rays 1-0. In the bottom of the 2nd inning, Adam Jones was safe at first on an error by Rodriquez; Rodriquez threw the ball over Keppinger’s head (Pena would not have been able to catch that ball). Jones was then safe at second on a throwing error by pitcher Matt Moore, who threw the ball into right field into of 1st base. After walked Matt Wieters, Moore struck out the next two batters but allowed Steve Tolleson to double, scoring two runs (run #2 was scored on an error caused by Guyer; the ball managed to roll by him into the corner of left field). Baltimore now led the Rays 2-1, all of the Orioles’ runs being scored because of errors. The Rays ended up committing three errors in the 2nd inning; making it the first time the Rays have committed that many errors in an inning since becoming the Rays instead of the Devil Rays.
In the 3rd, Will Rhymes hit a leadoff double but the next three Rays failed to bring him in. This seemed to be the theme of the week, the Rays manage to get on base but fail to bring the base runners home. In the 5th, Elliot Johnson was called out after bunting off his foot… enough with the bunting. In the bottom of the 5th, what would have been an easy pop-up ended up as catcher’s interference (error #4), this makes Chris Gimenez’s third error of the year. Moore began to fall apart and loaded the bases; to the horror of Rays’ fans, Jones was up to bat. Jones managed to single to centerfield, scoring two runs. BJ Upton committed an error by dropping the ball but even if he did not make the error, there was no one covering second base, allowing Jones to run to second base. Wade Davis was called in and he managed to get the final two outs. Moore failed once again to last past the fifth inning.
In the 6th, the Rays managed to score two runs due to the teamwork of Keppinger, Guyer, Luke Scott, and Orioles’ third baseman Tolleson committing an error. The error allowed Keppinger and Guyer to move up one base, thus allowing them to score on Scott’s single. The Orioles now led by only one run. None of the teams put up threats in the next several innings, minus a home run by the Orioles; thus the Rays lost to the Orioles again.
Player of the Game:
- Part of the Rays’ Bullpen: Wade Davis came in the 5th inning with two on, one out. He walked one Oriole, but was able to get two outs without giving up a run. In the 7th, Davis got all three batters to ground out. If Moore does not improve by the All-Star break, I would not be surprised to see Davis as a starting pitcher again. In the 7th, Burke Badenhop walked one, struck out three to end the inning. Badenhop’s last pitch was just amazing. The Bullpen worked several innings and did not give up any runs. JP Howell pitched the 8th inning, striking out the first batter but gave up a homerun in the 8th inning to make it 5-3. The homerun really did not effect the outcome of the game.
What I Liked:
- Bullpen: Reasons listed earlier
What I Didn’t’ Like:
- Lack of Aggressive Swinging: The Rays swung at balls out of the strike zone, but did not swing at fastballs done the middle (Rhymes and Keppinger for example). In majority of the strike outs tonight, the Rays did not swing on strike three. Several times, the Rays were about to swing, but held back for some reason. I also don’t think it’s a bad thing for Rays to hit balls out of the strike zone; Orioles’ Robert Adino managed to hit a double off a ball that was out of the strike zone. Rays are going to have to start being aggressive at the plate if they want to make it to the World Series.
- Bunting: There were two bunting attempts today, which resulted in two outs. I had no problem with bunting until this year because the bunt seems to be used in the wrong situations. As Brian Anderson said, why would Rhymes bunt at a ball “up and off the plate?” I’m for Carlos Pena bunting against the shift and Desmond Jennings bunting and beating the throw to first, but lately the Rays have looked awkward at the bunt.
- The five errors committed in today’s game were just plain awful and resulting in the Orioles winning the game. Rays have been known for pitching and defense, but today the Rays did not have either.
- Matt Moore’s Short Outing: Moore has the talent and I know he will be a great pitcher, but at the moment he is having trouble getting strike three. He drives his pitch count up high in the beginning of the game, resulting in him getting pulled in the 5th inning several times this season. It is becoming a burden on the bullpen who is forced to work four-five innings whenever Moore pitches.
Predictions: Rays will get out of this slump, but to do that these things need to happen:
- Matt Moore needs to last more than 5 innings. As soon as he does, he will have the confidence to be the Moore of last year. His problem is getting the final third strike due to command issues. If he fails to fix his problem by the All-Star break, I wonder what if the Rays will make a roster move.
- Aggressive Hitting: Rays are going to have to score at least four runs every game if they want to remain competitive. Walking is great, but walking does not score runs, hitting does. Scoring three runs may beat the Seattle Mariners, but not the Orioles, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, etc. Swinging at balls but not at strikes is baffling.
- Better Defense: The defense this season has just been awful. Tonight the Rays made five errors, that has not happened since 2001.
I believe the Rays are capable of winning without Evan Longoria; I mean they have done it before, they can do it again. Though I can’t wait to see Desmond Jennings and Longoria back.
J.P. Howell is a 28-year-old left-handed pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Howell was traded by the Kansas City Royals to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in June 2006. Howell made a few starts in 2006 due to starting pitcher Scott Kazmir spending time on the DL and a few starts in 2007 whenever a starter was hurt, but in 2008 he made the opening day roster in the bullpen. He became the first lefty to lead the majors in relief since 1997 and he ranked 9th among A.L. relievers with a 2.22 ERA. Howell did not allow a run in 11 outings in September; he was very vital to the Rays first playoff appearance that season. In 2009, Howell continued his success; 69 appearances, 7 wins, and 17 saves. He became the primary closer after Troy Percival was sent to the DL in May. Even though the 2009 season wasn’t that great (The Rays failed to make the playoffs), Howell was very dependable. So dependable that I stupidly said “I would trust him with my life.” A second later, he gave up a homerun on August 7th in Seattle. Howell was never the same and had a shoulder-injury, missing all of the 2010 season. Though I may have jinxed him, it is also possible that his arm/shoulder was blown due to overuse in the bullpen in 2009.
Howell returned on May 20th and threw a scoreless inning, but he was not the same. In fact, he seemed to give up a homerun whenever he pitched. It was just plain ugly and sad whenever he pitched. In 2012, Howell made his first appearance against the New York Yankees on opening day. He pitched in the 6th inning, getting the two Yankees to pop out. He made another appearance against the Detroit Tigers, relieving Jeff Niemann. Howell was able to get all three batters out, due to one runner stretching a single. In Howell’s last appearance, which was against the Red Sox, he relieved Badenhop and allowed two doubles, a single, and walk, allowing 2 runs; he managed to get the last two players out. Howell looks much better this year and hopefully will be the pitcher he was in 2008 & 2009.