Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Smyly Overpowering, Rays Sink O’s 3-1

Drew Smyly follows through on a pitch in the seventh inning. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Drew Smyly follows through on a pitch in the seventh inning. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Call it overpowering and/or dominant; Drew Smyly put together another excellent start Wednesday night, one in which he held the Baltimore Orioles to one run on two hits in his fourth consecutive plus-quality start as a Ray. And while they left a good amount of chicken on the bone — going 2-8 wRISP — the Rays offense was able to do just enough to come out on the winning side of the ledger.

Drew Smyly at-bat outcome chart. (Courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

Drew Smyly at-bat outcome chart. (Courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

Smyly did what he’s been wont to do since joining the Rays starting rotation: throw strikes. Though he got into trouble early on by walking a runner in the first and leaving a four-seam fastball in Chris Davis’ wheelhouse — accounting for the Orioles only run of the night — Smyly was able to keep the Orioles hitters off balance by effectively changing the speed and location of his pitches. Because of it, the O’s hitters were limited to two hits overall, while Smyly retired 16 of the last 17 hitters who steeped into the box.

The 25 year-old LHP has lowered his ERA to an excellent 1.50 in five starts with the Rays, while racking up 29 strikeouts. Fun fact: Smyly is the second pitcher in Rays history to throw seven IP and allow two hits or fewer in back-to-back starts. (Victor Zambrano did it in 2003). His final line: 7 IP/2 H/1 ER/1 BB/6 K/85 pitches (58 strikes, 68% K%), 44 fastballs (22 strikes, 7 balls in play — only one without an out), three change-ups (3 strikes, 2 BIP — only one without an out), 26 sliders (19 strikes, 6 whiffs), 24 cutters (14 strikes, 3 whiffs).

All of the Rays run production came in the first and third innings, though, per usual, there were scoring opportunities a plenty throughout Kevin Gausman’s four innings of work. Ben Zobrist followed a quick out by Desmond Jennings with a double of the wall in right, moving to third on a wild pitch thrown by Gausman. Matt Joyce followed with a sharply hit grounder to Jonathan Schoop who attempted to throw Zobrist out at home. But his long throw was late, and Zobrist was able to score.

Evan Longoria continued the early rally with his first hit of the night — a single into left past shortstop JJ Hardy – which moved Joyce up to second. But on the following play, a James Loney single to right, Longoria committed the worst running blunder of the past two nights. Joyce advanced to third on Loney’s hit, but stopped. Longoria, however, rounded second and ran all the way to third base… And right into an out. Instead of bases loaded situation with just one out, the Rays had runners on the corners with two outs. While the mistake hurt the Rays, it did not prevent them from plating another run in the inning. Wil Myers, mired in some pretty inconsistent at-bats since his return from the DL, hit a bloop single to shallow right which scored Joyce from third and allowed Loney to move up to third. Yunel Escobar ended the inning by grounding into a fielder’s choice. The Rays scored an unearned, go-ahead run in the bottom of the third off Gausman.

Ryan Hanigan led off the inning by reaching on a rare errant throw by JJ Hardy. Desmond Jennings followed Kevin Kiermaier’s strikeout with a double to right, and both runners moved into scoring position with only one out. Ben Zobrist brought Hanigan home on a sac-fly to deep right.

While Smyly sailed through the game by putting together seven efficient innings, averaging just over 12 pitches per inning, Joe Maddon acknowledged in his post-game presser that he wanted to limit Drew to 90 pitches on the night. Because of it, Brad Boxberger came on in relief in the eighth, and (per usual) gutted the opposing batters. Though the Orioles got a baserunner with two outs on an Evan Longoria error, Boxberger was able to get out of the inning unscathed by coaxing a Nick Markakis comebacker for the third out of the inning. Jake McGee came in to shut down the game, setting down the Orioles with a 1-2-3 ninth inning. Rays win, 3-1.

The New What Next

Tampa Bay looks to split the series Thursday night with Jeremy Hellickson on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Bud Norris. Norris (11-8, 3.91 ERA) was very good against Tampa Bay last season, posting a 1-1 record in 9-1/3 innings of work. His most impressive start came as an Astro, putting together a 7 IP/6 H/1 R outing against Roberto Hernadez. Norris’ change-up has vastly improved over previous seasons. It’s coaxed a modest number of whiffs (10.3%), and a hefty number of grounders (65.7%). His change-up pairs well with a plus slider. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 8/28/14 Starting Lineup

Jennings CB
Zobrist 2B
Joyce LF
Longoria 3B
Loney 1B
Myers DH
Escobar SS
Molina C
Kiermaier RF
Hellickson RHP

Noteworthiness

  • Your tweet of the day:
  • Evan Longoria has 30 RBI in 36 games since All-Star break, 3rd most in AL over that span. Had 44 in first 97 games.
  • I’m excited to announce that our next watch party will take place on Friday, September 12, when the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Toronto Blue Jays. Per Fangraphs, there’s a 99.3% chance this will be our last watch party of the 2014 season — that is, unless the Rays somehow eke out a miracle (start offering your sacrifices to the baseball gods now). In any case, we’ve got a few different things up our sleeves, like raffles for free Rays, X-Rays Spex, and Green Bench Brewing Company swag. So copy down the date, and let’s have a blast!

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Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Rays Drop Another to the Orioles, 4-2

The August sky in Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

The August sky in Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

It’s late’ish, I’ve had a few to drink, and I just watched the Tampa Bay Rays drop their second consecutive game to the Baltimore Orioles — this time by a score of 4-2. I’m tired, and since I have to be up early in the morning, I’m putting a challenge on myself — summarize the game in a paragraph or less. Here goes:

Both starters didn’t have their best stuff, and while Alex Cobb and Wei-Yin Chen were worked over for a fairly hefty pitch count early on, they both worked hard to keep their respective teams in the game. The loss could be blamed on three factors: fielding gaffes, three plays at the plate culminating in Rays outs, and a tough strike zone by home plate umpire Pat Hoberg. Yup, that about sums things up.

I live blogged the contest at our Tumblr site, and you can read a blow-by-blow account there. Below are handful of bulleted highlights (in a loose, liberal sense).

  • Apparently Evan Longoria makes that long throw from third to first look incredibly easy, because on three separate occasions, neither Sean Rodriguez nor Logan Forsythe could make a strong and accurate throw. Both of S-Rod’s throws resulted in a base runner, while James Loney did an excellent job picking Forsythe’s low and wide throw for an out. Finally, Yunel Escobar threw errantly on what would have been the back end of a double play. The run that scored in the sixth inning was directly contributed to that play.
  • The Rays were thrown out at the plate not once, not twice, but three times. In the first inning, Desmond Jennings tried to score from third on what would go down as a 5-3-2 double play. And even though Joe Maddon asked for a check of rule 3.17 allowing the Rays to save their challenge, it was determined that the catcher did give Jennings a lane and the out call stood. Call me crazy, but I really think Jennings was foolish in trying to score on a weakly hit tapper down the third base line. A little while later, Hanigan attempted to score from second on a grounder up the middle. I get it, he was running on contact with two outs. However, Adam Jones — who fielded the play — has a gun for an arm. We all saw what he did to the Rays from deep center, Monday night. Why would Hanigan even assume he could score from second? Finally, with the bases loaded, Jennings grounded to Chris Davis who made an excellent bare-handed grab. David fired the ball home for the force out. Tampa Bay ended the night 2-6 wRISP.
  • Home plate umpire Pat Hoberg put the royal squeeze on both the Rays and Orioles pitchers. To his credit, Hoberg’s strike zone was consistent — however it was also small which forced pitchers to focus on pitching within the zone, as opposed to being able to expand it.
fastmap.php-pitchSel=all&game=gid_2014_08_26_tbamlb_balmlb_1&sp_type=3&s_type=7&cache=1

Each pitch is represented by a single dot. Green dots are balls and red dots are strikes. Pitches marked as belonging to a particular team (in this case “tba” and “bal”) are designated with different shapes. These teams represent the pitching team, not the batting team. (Courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

fastmap.php-pitchSel=all&game=gid_2014_08_26_tbamlb_balmlb_1&sp_type=2&s_type=7&cache=1

Each pitch is represented by a single dot. Green dots are balls and red dots are strikes. Pitches marked as belonging to a particular team (in this case “tba” and “bal”) are designated with different shapes. These teams represent the pitching team, not the batting team. (Courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

The New What Next

Drew Smyly will try to put together another excellent outing following his two hit, complete game shutout Friday. He’ll be opposed by Kevin Gausman. The Rays beat up on Gausman (7-5, 3.81 ERA) back in June, tagging the RHP for five runs in five innings of work. Gausman’s performed well since, giving up three runs or fewer in eight of his last nine outings. He’s thrown for five innings or fewer in seven of his 14 starts, while opposing teams (Rays included) have walked away with wins in five of those games. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 8/27/14 Starting Lineup

Jennings CF
Zobrist 2B
Joyce LF
Longoria 3B
Loney 1B
Myers DH
Escobar SS
Hanigan C
Kiermaier RF
Smyly LHP

Noteworthiness

  • Your tweet of the day:

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Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Rays, Odorizzi Crushed By Orioles, 9-1

Where is everyone? Aren’t they a first place team??? #thingspeoplealwayssaidaboutourcrowds (Photo and caption courtesy of Dave Willis)

Where is everyone? Aren’t they a first place team??? #ThingsPeopleAlwaysSaidAboutOurCrowds (Photo and caption courtesy of Dave Willis)

There are three types of people in this world:

  1. Those who see an accident ahead, but just keep driving forward.
  2. Those who see an accident ahead, and feel the need to rubberneck.
  3. Those who see an accident ahead, feel the need to rubberneck, then instantly regret their decision.

Friends, I’d put myself into category number three. I willingly watched as Jake Odorizzi gave up for homers in four plus innings. I willing watched as the Orioles put together their 49th multi-homer game of the season — they’re now 39-10 in those games. And I willingly watched as the Rays hitters did nothing with the scoring opportunities they put together against Chris Tillman. Four plus innings (and eight runs) later, I regretted my decision and turned on Bizarre Foods as penance.

It should be noted: watching Andrew Zimmern eat is not for the faint of heart. The very sound of him chewing resembles that of a hog wallowing in his or her own slough. I digress.

BA made mention that the Orioles were sitting on both Odorizzi’s fastball and change-up. And since Odorizzi wasn’t willing to throw his slow curve into the mix, to — in the least — throw Baltimore off, the Orioles slug happy hitters were more than willing to time up Jake, and punish him for his mistakes. And rightly so, after all there is a reason Baltimore leads the league in home runs. Interestingly enough, the Orioles’ sluggers have been good for a 12.6% HR/FB (overall) this season. Of course their HR/FB numbers are prone to fluctuations. With that in mind, four of the fly balls Nick Markakis, Steve Pearce, JJ Hardy, and Delmon Young put in play off Odorizzi Monday night were home runs — good for a 44% HR/FB. All this is to say, you can blame it on poor sequencing or on he not having his stuff, Odorizzi wasn’t able to keep the wolves at bay — as evidenced by his 4 IP/11 H/8 ER/1 BB/ 3 K slash line, and his pitch outcome chart (below).

Jake Odorizzi at-bat outcome chart. (Courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

Jake Odorizzi at-bat outcome chart. (Courtesy of Brooks Baseball)

The New What Next

Onward to Tuesday night’s game, when Alex Cobb assumes the role of stopper against Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles. The Rays have had a fair amount of success against Chen (13-4, 3.76) this season. In his first start against the Rays, Chen held Longoria and company to one run on five hits. Yet the Rays beat Chen and the Orioles twice since, both times by a 5-4 margin. In the case of his most recent start against Tampa Bay, Chen gave up five runs on seven hits, including three homers. One thing is certain, with a 12% HR/FB the fly ball pitcher does give up his fair share of homers. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 8/26/14 Starting Lineup

Jennings CF
Zobrist LF
Forsythe 2B
Longoria DH
Myers RF
Escobar SS
Loney 1B
Hanigan C
Rodriguez 3B
Cobb RHP

Noteworthiness 

  • The Rays have activated C Ryan Hanigan from the DL, responding by optioning Curt Casali Casali to Class-A Stone Crabs so he can return Monday — the 10-day rule is trumped by the end of the minor-league season (Charlotte is done Sunday).
  • Jake Odorizzi is the first pitcher in Rays history to allow back-to-back homers twice in one game.
  • Your tweet of the day:

  • At least one Rays’ affiliated clubs can claim victory. Congrats to the Durham Bulls for becoming the International League South Division Champions:

 

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Rays 8/25/14 Starting Lineup, Etc.

Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, former home of the Orioles from 1954-1991.

Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, former home of the Orioles from 1954-1991.

Rays 8/25/14 Starting Lineup

Zobrist CF
Joyce LF
Longoria DH
Loney 1B
Myers RF
Forsythe 2B
Escobar SS
Molina C
Rodriguez 3B
Odorizzi RHP

Noteworthiness

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The New What Next: Rays Head to Baltimore For A Four Game Series with the O’s

Ben Zobrist is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run in the first inning during Sunday's series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Ben Zobrist is congratulated by teammates after scoring a run in the first inning during Sunday’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Rays are back at it Monday night, when they start a four game series against the Orioles in Baltimore. While the Rays are coming off a series win against the Blue Jays, the Orioles faced a power outage of sorts on the north side of Chicago, where the Cubs held them a total of four runs over the course of a three-game sweep — their first road sweep of the year. The Rays will try to flush out the odd procedural inconsistencies that plagued the previous series, while the Orioles attempt to get back on the winning side of the ledger.

The Orioles had been on a roll since the All-Star break until the above mentioned sweep, winning 21 of their first 32 while expanding their AL East lead from four games to nine. Baltimore leads the majors in home runs, though the key has been pitching. While the starting rotation ranks near the middle of the American League, the bullpen is ranked among the best. That is, if the Rays maintain any hope of walking away with a series win, the offense is going to have to hit the starters hard while pitching staff is going to have to hold the wolves at bay.

Rays and Orioles series starters (over the last 30 days).

Rays and Orioles series starters (over the last 30 days).

Rays and Orioles offensive production (at home, away, and over the last 30 days).

Rays and Orioles offensive production (at home, away, and over the last 30 days).

Rays and Orioles (by the numbers).

Rays and Orioles (by the numbers).

Chris Tillman: Tillman (10-5, 3.55 ERA) may be 3-6 with a 4.46 ERA lifetime against the Rays, but he performed well against Tampa Bay in his previous two starts; going 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings of work. Key matchups: Matt Joyce (7-27, 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB), Kevin Kiermaier (1-4), Evan Longoria (13-33, 2 2B, 5 HR, 7 RBI, 3 BB).

Wei-Yin Chen: The Rays have had a fair amount of success against Wei-Yin Chen (13-4, 3.76) this season. In his first start against the Rays, Chen held Longoria and company to one run on five hits. Yet the Rays beat Chen and the Orioles twice since, both times by a 5-4 margin. In the case of his most recent start against Tampa Bay, Chen gave up five runs on seven hits, including three homers. One thing is certain, with a 12% HR/FB the fly ball pitcher does give up his fair share of homers. Key matchups: Logan Forsythe (3-8, HR, 2 RBI), Brandon Guyer (1-4), Matt Joyce (1-4, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-5, HR, 2 RBI), James Loney (3-8, 2 2B), Jose Molina (2-5, 2B, RBI, BB), Ben Zobrist (11-30, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB).

Kevin Gausman: The Rays beat up on Gausman (7-5, 3.81 ERA) back in June, tagging the RHP for five runs in five innings of work. Gausman’s performed well since, giving up three runs or fewer in eight of his last nine outings. He’s thrown for five innings or fewer in seven of his 14 starts, while opposing teams (Rays included) have walked away with wins in five of those games. Key matchups: Yunel Escobar (4-5, RBI), Brandon Guyer (2-2, 2 2B, RBI), Matt Joyce (2-7, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-6), Evan Longoria (2-8, 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Jose Molina (1-2, RBI), Ben Zobrist (5-9, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB).

Bud Norris: Norris (11-8, 3.91 ERA) was very good against Tampa Bay last season, posting a 1-1 record in 9-1/3 innings of work. His most impressive start came as an Astro, putting together a 7 IP/6 H/1 R outing against Roberto Hernadez. Norris’ change-up has vastly improved over previous seasons. It’s coaxed a modest number of whiffs (10.3%), and a hefty number of grounders (65.7%). His change-up pairs well with a plus slider. Key matchups: Desmond Jennings (2-8, 2B, BB), Matt Joyce (3-7, 2 BB), James Loney (9-18, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Jose Molina (1-3).

Noteworthiness

  • Evan Longoria has knocked in 12 runs in his last 10 contests, including a pair in Sunday’s 2-1 victory at Toronto. He is is 13-for-30 with five homers against Monday’s starter Chris Tillman.
  • With the series win Sunday, the Rays have gone 9-1 in their last 10 road series.
  • Tampa Bay leads the AL with 17 shutouts and need one more to snap a tie for the club record with the 2013 team.
  • While Adam Jones and JJ Hardy have been fairly consistent, Nelson Cruz has three hits — all homers — in his last 28 at-bats, Chris Davis’ average has dipped below the Mendoza line at .189, and leadoff hitter Nick Markakis is 0-for-20 the last five games.
  • Steve Pearce is 11-for-30 with three homers and seven RBI against the Rays this season.

 

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