Rays 5/29/15 Starting Lineup, Etc

Nathan Karns is congratulated by teammates as he is taken out of the game during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field. (Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Nathan Karns is congratulated by teammates as he is taken out of the game during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field. (Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Rays 5/29/15 Starting Lineup

Kiermaier CF
Butler DH
Longoria 3B
DeJesus LF
Forsythe 2B
Souza Jr. RF
Cabrera SS
Elmore 1B
Rivera C
Karns RHP

Noteworthiness

Marc Topkin writes, the big growth in (Nathan) Karns has been a concerted effort to limit walks. He walked four batters in three of his first four starts, posting a 7.02 ERA in those three games.

Since then, Karns, 27, said he has learned to throw more strikes by not fearing hits. He hasn’t walked more than two batters in a game since April 22 and has a 2.30 ERA in that stretch.

I’m not making the mistakes I did at the beginning of the year, Karns said. I’m kind of growing and kind of understanding how this game works at this level. I’m starting to get real comfortable out there. I’m not trying to miss barrels anymore. I’m pitching my game. Whether they hit it or not, I’m sticking to it, whereas sometimes earlier in my career, I was a little more timid.

Don’t forget to read our Rays/Orioles series preview. Make it a two’fer if you already have.

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The New What Next: Rays vs. Orioles, Part Three — A Series Preview

Kevin Kiermaier is looked at by a trainer, manager Kevin Cash, and third base coach Charlie Montoyo after getting hit with a pitch from Felix Hernandez during the sixth inning on Wednesday. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Kevin Kiermaier is looked at by a trainer, manager Kevin Cash, and third base coach Charlie Montoyo after getting hit with a pitch from Felix Hernandez during the sixth inning on Wednesday. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Tampa Bay Rays are starting a 10-game road trip on the heels of a 2-5 home stand, which included five consecutive losses. First stop Baltimore, where the team will take on the Orioles in a three-game, weekend set.

The most recent defeat took place Wednesday, when the Rays recorded just four singles against Felix Hernandez in a 3-0 defeat against Seattle. The culprit? Sloppy play in the field (exacerbated by the placement of James Loney on the DL), and the inability to drive in runners in scoring position — the team went a tepid 3-for-28 wRISP against the Mariners (.107 BA wRISP).

The Baltimore Orioles continue their eight-game home stand in the first actual series between the AL East rivals at Camden Yards this season. Recall that the teams three-game set at the beginning of the month was relocated to Tropicana Field because of social unrest in Baltimore. Baltimore won two of those three contests, limiting the Rays to a total of four runs the entire series, after kicking off the campaign. The Orioles are 3-2 on this home stand after splitting a doubleheader at against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

However, there is hope (alternately, so you’re saying there’s a chance). Miguel Gonzalez, who will get the start for the Orioles on Friday, has been tagged for at least four runs in four of his last six starts, although he didn’t allow an earned run in either of the other two outings. An aside, one of those two starts came against Tampa Bay on May 2, when Gonzalez relinquished four hits in 7-2/3 scoreless frames. And while his 10-game hitting streak may have come to an end on Wednesday, Evan Longoria has had a massive amount of success at Camden Yards, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 42 RBI there — his highest career totals at any road ballpark.

Rays and Orioles series starters over the last 14 days.

Rays and Orioles series starters over the last 14 days.

Rays and Orioles offensive production over the last 14 days.

Rays and Orioles offensive production over the last 14 days.

Rays and Orioles by the numbers.

Rays and Orioles by the numbers.

Miguel Gonzalez: Per Rotowire, Gonzalez gave up four earned runs on five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings Tuesday en route to his fifth win of the season. Gonzalez has been able to stifle Tampa Bay this season, holding the team to just one earned run in 13-1/3 innings of work. Be that as it may, the Rays still have a good OBP (.338) and SLG (.406) against the righty. Key matchups: Tim Beckham (1-3), Asdrubal Cabrera (3-11, 2B, HR, RBI), David DeJesus (3-12, 3 BB), Logan Forsythe (3-6, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (2-7, 2B), Evan Longoria (7-28, HR, RBI, 4 BB), Rene Rivera (1-4).

Wei-Yin Chen: Per Rotowire, Chen (soreness) will start Saturday’s game against the Rays, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports. Chen is a pitcher who the Rays have had success against this season, tagging the lefty for five earned runs on 11 hits (two homers) and four walks in 10-1/3 innings. Furthermore, the team has a combined .263 BA/.329 OBP/.453 SLG/.782 OPS in 137 at-bats against Chen. Key matchups: Joey Butler (1-3), Logan Forsythe (6-17, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB), Brandon Guyer (3-11, 2B), Kevin Kiermaier (4-9, 3B, HR, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (8-26, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 6 BB).

Chris Tillman: Per Rotowire, Tillman went seven innings against the Astros on Tuesday, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts, but was stuck with his sixth loss of the season. Tillman is another one of those pitchers who happens to be a chronic thorn in the side of Tampa Bay. Nevertheless, the Rays were able to hand Tillman a hard-luck loss on May 1. The Orioles ace has given up four or more runs (all resulting in losses) in four of his nine starts — perhaps the Rays can sink his battleship on Sunday. Key matchups: Jake Elmore (1-2), Brandon Guyer (2-6), Evan longoria (15-38, 3 2B, 6 HR, 9 RBI, 4 BB).

Noteworthiness

— The team should be close to full strength to start the series. Kevin Kiermaier isn’t expected to miss time after being hit by a pitchWednesday. Asdrubal Cabrera pinch hit in each of the last two games and seems likely to be back in the lineup. The team hopes Steven Souza Jr. (sprained left wrist) returns after missing the past three games.

— Hopefully the buck stops here. The Rays bullpen has allowed at least one run in six consecutive games; the longest stretch for that unit since June 13-18, 2013.

— Matt Moore took a line drive to the chest an extended spring start on Thursday. He is reportedly fine, the ball just grazed him. Moore threw three innings and 46 pitches in his outing game and, per the Rays, everything went as planned.:

— Kirby Yates threw one inning (and 16 pitches) in an extended spring game; everything went as planned as well.

— Your quote comes courtesy of Marc Topkin via WDAE:

If you’re uncertain what that’s in reference to, read about the most recent Stadium Saga happenings here.

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St. Pete Council Swing Vote Names His Price on Rays Deal (Re-Posted From Shadow of the Stadium)

It wouldn't be a stadium workshop without Wengay Newton's personalized Rays jersey.

It wouldn’t be a stadium workshop without Wengay Newton’s personalized Rays jersey.

By Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium)

For the first time, the St. Pete councilman perceived as the swing vote on the Rays stadium issue indicated what it would take to win his blessing for a multi-county stadium search. But it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Councilmember Steve Kornell, who voted against December’s proposal that would let the Tampa Bay rays explore new stadium sites in both Pinellas and Hillsborough County’s without paying a fee – and only about $2 million a year for every year they left prior to the 2027 expiration of the current contract – said during a Thursday workshop that he would want a $55 million guarantee from the Rays to tear up the current agreement.

Kornell told me he expects significant pushback in the court of public opinion, but his asking price is steeped in precedent.

In 2008, when the Supersonics left Seattle two years prior to the end of their arena lease, the team agreed to pay the city $45 million, with other stipulations that could have potentially raised the total. Kornell said the city won by refusing to short-sell its contract with the team.

“The owner came to the city and said, ‘I’ll give you $26.5 million for two years,” Kornell said of the Sonics’ initial offer to Seattle. “They said, ‘no, we’re going to stand up for our taxpayers – we’re just going to go to court.”

The Sonics later increased their offer prior to a judge’s decision.
A frustrated Mayor Rick Kriseman told Kornell during Thursday’s workshop that the Rays’ situation was different than Seattle’s because they weren’t asking to leave the region. He also said Rays President Bryan Auld indicated there would be no better offer than what has already been presented.

For what it’s worth, a judge in Minnesota also blocked MLB from contracting the Twins when the team had just one year left on its contract, which would explain why the Rays’ hands are tied without getting council’s blessing.

Currently, the team is locked into a seemingly-ironclad agreement with St. Petersburg, which has threatened legal action against any party that interferes with its current contract, which binds the raise to Tropicana Field through the 2027 season.

However, dwindling attendance numbers have added to the urgency of many Rays supporters to break the deadlock and expedite the process of launching a Hillsborough County-based stadium search site.
Kornell also told me he felt the need to publicize his thoughts with fans, sportstalk hosts, and newspaper editorial boards calling St. Pete councilmembers “greedy” and “obstructionist” for voting down the Rays’ recent proposal to look at stadium sites in Tampa.

Thursday’s workshop lasted more than four hours, with contentious debate over the future of both the Rays and the Tropicana Field site filling the majority of the time. After all, what’s a few more hours of indecision after seven years of stalemate?

Even though there were lots of attorneys present at the workshop, including councilmembers Charlie Gerdes and Jim Kennedy, Mayor Rick Kriseman, and several members of the city’s legal staff, many of the attorneys came to different legal opinions at different times. It helps explain the divide that exists on council:

Council voted on the mayor’s recently-renegotiated MOU, but by a 4-4 vote (Amy Foster changed from a previous “no” vote to “yes,”) the deal again died. They then voted to request a ULI study in partnership with the Rays to look at redevelopment opportunities of the Trop site. But here were a few takeaways:

The Rays wouldn’t comment on specifics, but sent this one-line statement to me a couple of minutes after the nearly five-hour workshop was adjourned:

We appreciate the time and attention that Mayor Kriseman, Chairman Gerdes and the rest of the City Council have dedicated to this issue.
— Brian Auld

Noteworthiness

— The vote, mentioned above, was more of a non-binding straw poll than it was an official vote on the memorandum of understanding drafted (and revised) by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. Consider it the City Council’s way of testing the water.

— A lot of time was dedicated to discussion of redeveloping the Trop’s 86 acres of property. It sounds as though, if given the opportunity, the city would like to offer the Rays organization the opportunity to help redevelop the entire tract of land, ala Jeff Vinik in Tampa. That’s something I’ve talked about a few times over — the organization could benefit from shared development rights, should the team decide the current location is suitable, given the land, transit, and funding mechanisms:

— Contrary to popular belief, the Derby Lane, Toytown, and Carillon tracts of property are not off the table, giving the Pinellas side of the bay four potentially viable stadium locations:

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Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Rays Fall 3-0 Amid Pitching Duel, Stadium News

Chris Archer fanned a career high 12 batters in eight innings of work on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

The marquee matchup between Tampa Bay Rays hurler Chris Archer and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez lived up to billing. Unfortunately for the Rays, King Felix put together yet another superb outing, and the Mariners won the game 3-0 after Archer departed the game following the eighth inning. At 24-24, Tampa Bay now has dropped a season-high five straight games.

Archer put together his best, most dominant outing of the season. The most trouble he got into came early in the first when he gave up a one-out double to Seth Smith that got between Logan Forsythe and first base.  From there, however, Archer started to settle in, fanning Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz to end the rally and the inning. Archer embarked upon a stretch where he retired 12 consecutive batters and 23 of 24. His only other blemish on the day came in the fifth inning when the ace allowed a single to Logan Morrison.  Archer struck out 12 and surrendered just two hits on 95 pitches.

The righty hoped for the opportunity to finish what he started, however, Rays manager Kevin Cash opted to pull the righty in favor of Brad Boxberger in the ninth. The decision proved costly. Boxberger struck out the first two hitters before walking Seth Smith and Robinson Cano on 3-2 pitches. Nelson Cruz stepped into the box and took a 1-0 pitch into the Ray Tank for the only runs of the game.

The question begs, why did Cash pull Archer at that point in the game?

At that time, Cash said in his post game presser, it makes the most sense to go to Box.

Cash sited a handful of reasons* for pulling Archer after eight innings: he was at 95 pitches. That he would have been pulled anyway before facing lefties Seth Smith and Robinson Cano, who were due up third and fourth, with a man on. That they didn’t want to extend him since he had worked only 5-1/3 innings (though threw 107 pitches) in his last outing. That they wanted Boxberger to start with a clean inning.

Yet Archer was coming off a shorter outing, and he has an extra day before his next start in Anaheim. Too, he dominated the Mariners, mixing in his change up to complement his mid-90’s fastball (repeatedly touching 97 mph) and his filthy slider.

Archer wanted to be the guy who went back out there and posted another goose egg on the scoreboard:

I always want to stay in the game, even last game when I didn’t have my best outing. If I haven’t thrown 120 pitches, I want to stay out there. Had a good talk with (pitching coach Jim) Hickey and Cash. The reasoning behind why I came out, and I understand, but I felt so good and pitches were relatively low. And I knew that Felix was going back out and I wanted to be the guy to put another zero on the board.

While Hernandez isn’t boast a shiny line, he was still effective. Seattle’s ace was a ground ball machine and needed just 100 pitches to put the Rays away. King Felix didn’t now throw more than 12 pitches in any of the first six innings, and was aided by four double plays (three inning ending double plays).

Tampa Bay mounted a threat in the second inning after David DeJesus reached on a single and a Nick Franklin walked, but Jake Elmore grounded hard into a 5-4-3 double play. Then in the third, Kevin Kiermaier bounced into a double play after a Rene Rivera base hit, and Nick Franklin followed a Logan Forsythe single in the fifth with a 4-6-3 double play.

In the sixth, the Rays staged their biggest threat. Brandon Guyer led off with an infield hit, and was bunted to second by Rivera. Tampa Bay got another base runner when The Outlaw was hit on the ankle by a pitch, yet Joey Butler hit a bullet off the mound but right to Robinson Cano, who turned it into, you guessed it, another double play.

Kiermaier told Rays Radio that he believes he’ll be okay after rest and treatment on the off-day Thursday:

Hernandez put down the last 10 Rays in order starting with the ill fated, Butler double play ball.

*Source: Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times)

Noteworthiness

— Despite the outcome, that was a hell of a pitching duel:

— The Rays were shutout for sixth time this season, which is most in the American League, and the 24th time since the start of 2014 season (second most in majors to San Diego).

— The St. Petersburg City Council will meet again Thursday to discuss the Tampa Bay Rays stadium saga. On the list of topics to be discussed is the possibility of tying the Tropicana Field property to the economically distressed poor neighborhoods to its south.

Similar to Ybor City’s designation as a Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), there is a potential to redraw the boundaries of St. Petersburg’s south-side CRA (bounded by Fourth Street to 49th Street and from Second Avenue N to 30th Avenue S), which does not currently include the baseball stadium and its parking lots.

In short, the benefits to the CRA could be huge, pumping millions in revenue into poor neighborhoods from rising property values in the region. If the Rays opted to stay at Tropicana Field (or, if a new facility was to be built on the property), they would likely need perhaps 15 to 20 acres, leaving the bulk of the property to be redeveloped. If they were to leave, all 85 acres would become available.

There are a few caveats. As Charlie Frago (Tampa Bay Times) noted,

City officials are hesitant to lock up what could be massive revenue generated by new construction on the Trop property into a specific area of the city. And requiring development in the CRA could also limit the pool of developers willing to take on both the Trop and the 7.5-square-mile area. Additionally, to redraw the CRA boundaries would require a study showing the Trop site to be blighted — a long shot. And the County Commission would be likely very reluctant to be on the hook for decades more of tax money on that property going to a specific area, city officials said.

Nevertheless the idea is intriguing, and it will be interesting to see what may transpire on Thursday.

— Rays INF Ryan Brett has been reinstated from the 15-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Durham Bulls.

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Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Rays Fall in Extras, 6-5

Cool photo? Absolutely. That, however, does not deter from the fact The Outlaw went 0-5 on the night while stranding five base runners. Those eyes, however, are dreamy. (Photo credit: the Tampa Bay Rays)

The Rays came within inches of a game-winning grand slam in the ninth inning from Evan Longoria. Yet in spite of a career best four RBI night from utility man Jake Elmore, the Rays fell 7-6 to Seattle in 10 innings on Tuesday. Kyle Seager, thanks to a pair of homers (including an eighth inning grand slam) and six RBI for the Mariners, led Seattle to the winning margin. For Tampa Bay, it was the fourth straight loss, as the Rays dropped a half game behind New York in the AL East. Seager’s solo shot off Brad Boxberger spoiled a fantastic ninth inning rally.

In no certain terms, four things factored into the Rays loss:

  1. Defensive gaffes directly contributed to four of Seattle’s runs.
  2. Poor calls by the umpiring crew.
  3. The Rays went 3-16 wRISP.
  4. Jake-and-the-Box combined for a pair of homers and five runs.

Defensive misplays contributed to Seattle’s two-run first inning against starter Alex Colome, who posted a 38-pitch, two-run frame. They also contributed to the four-run eighth against Jake McGee.

Austin Jackson, after leading off the game with a single to center, swiped second base — getting in just ahead of Rene Rivera’s bullet to SS Tim Beckham, who allowed the ball to glance off his glove and bound into center field. Had Beckham made the catch, Jackson easily would have been dead to rights. Instead, however, Jackson found himself at third with no outs. Still in the first, Robinson Cano smoked a ground ball a step or two away from Beckham. Instead of attempting to get in front of the ball, Beckham tried to backhand the grounder which ultimately made its way into left field.

Later on with two runners on and no outs in the eighth, Nelson Cruz hit a sharp ground ball, right at second baseman Nick Franklin, that looked to be a tailor made double play. Unfortunately for the Rays Franklin booted the play, consequently loading the bases for Seager who made McGee pay.

Bad umpiring calls also hampered the team.

The most egregious play of the first was a safe call at the plate that withstood a replay review to give the Mariners their second run. It looked as though catcher Rene Rivera took a throw from Alex Colome after a comebacker from Seager, and tagged Seth Smith thus keeping him from getting to the plate.

On an irate scale where Lou Pinella was a 10 and Joe Maddon was a 1, Manager Kevin Cash was a five. The Rays skipper made it clear how much he disagreed with the call  after the game:

Terrible. Terrible. It’s embarrassing. We spend so much time on pace of play, let’s just get the damn call right on the field. It’s terrible. They ought to be embarrassed. Feels like we got beat twice tonight.

Another bad call drew the ire of Cash. In the seventh inning with joey butler on first, Evan Longoria hit a drive down the left-field line that was initially called foul by third-base umpire Jerry Layne. The call was reversed upon review, however Butler was awarded third base, not home.

I’d like to know where Joey Butler was on Longoria’s double. Very curious. They missed the call, they place the runner. That’s a run. I look at it as two runs, one for us, one against us. It’s terrible.

Yet gaffes and bad calls do not take deter from the fact that, on the whole, the Rays were cold offensively for the majority of the game. going 3-16 wRISP on the night, the had chances to add to their 3-2 advantage in the fifth inning by getting two on with none out. They had another shot in the seventh, getting runners to second and third with one out.

In all fairness, the ninth inning was pretty glorious. Neil Solondz (Rays Radio Network) wrote about the little inning that (almost) could:

Trailing 6-3 in the ninth, the Rays tied the game against closer Fernando Rodney, but almost won the game. Pinch-Hitter David DeJesus started the rally with a single to left, Brandon Guyer blooped a hit to right and Joey Butler was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Evan Longoria fell behind 0-2 and then hit a ball of the yellow line in left for a two-run double, pulling the Rays within a run at 6-5. Logan Forsythe popped out in foul ground to first for the first out. Asdrubal Cabrera pinch-hit for Tim Beckham and was walked intentionally, re-loading the bases. Elmore then hit a potential double-play ball, but Robinson Cano’s throw was wide of first, scoring Butler with the tying run. Kevin Kiermaier then grounded hard to second to send the game to extra innings.

Still, when you consider that the tandem of Kevin Kiermaier and Nick Franklin combined to go 0-10 on the night, and that The Outlaw stranded five men on base, you come to the realization that the woulda-coulda-shouldas don’t win games.

Speaking to point four, Cash summed up the uncanny appearances by Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger, who combined to allow a pair of homers and five runs late in the game:

We got beat with our best guys out on the mound and lined up perfectly. And sometimes that’s going to happen.

By the by, this tit-for-tat thing that the Rays and Lightning have going on needs to stop. It seems as though whenever the two Bay Area franchises play on the same night, the outcome, more often than not, is similar.

The New What Next

The final game of the series is on Wednesday afternoon when Chris Archer takes the hill opposite of Felix Hernandez. King Felix had his worst outing of the year, going six innings and allowing four earned runs in a 4-2 loss to Boston on Saturday. He dropped to 6-1 with the effort. Still, it won’t be easy for the Rays who will attempt a to put a kibosh on the Mariner’s hopes of a sweep. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 5/27/15 Starting Lineup

Kiermaier CF
Butler DH
Longoria 3B
DeJesus LF
Forsythe 1B
Franklin SS
Elmore 2B
Guyer RF
Rivera C
Archer RHP

Noteworthiness

— Amid all the late-night developments, the Rays announced postgame that Grant Balfour opted out of his Triple-A deal, and was granted his release, writes Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times). Topkin continued, it was clear Balfour wasn’t going to be called up by the Rays, now the question is whether he seeks to keep pitching elsewhere or retire.

— Kevin Cash is a man of many words:

— Desmond Jennings told Topkin his knee is getting better:

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