Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Rays Drop Series Following 9-7 Loss to the Twins

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Yeah… about your start, Erik.

Tampa Bay dropped it’s second consecutive game to the Twins Thursday, this time by a score of 9-7. Blame the loss on a spotty start by Erik Bedard (though he was able to put the pieces together after a 42 pitch first), and a five run fifth off Heath Bell. Credit where it’s due, the offense brought the Rays within two after being down by six. The Rays were able to tag Minnesota for seven runs today (18 in the series), which is a plus.

Thursday was the AL-leading 11th time a Rays starter didn’t work more than five innings — the eighth time in the last 10 games since Cobb went on the disabled list. That’s not an achievement I’m comfortable touting. Moving forward. Though Joe Maddon said there are no planned changes for the rotation as of now, it’ll be interesting to see if Maddon and Andrew Friedman hold firm to that qualifier ahead of their upcoming 10-game road trip — especially since Bell left the game after being hit by a comebacker.

Next up, the Rays will head to Chicago for a four game, wrap around series. I’ll put together a series preview in a bit.

Noteworthiness

  • It looks like David DeJesus is finally heating up. After snapping an 0-24 streak Tuesday night, DeJesus crushed a two run shot in the third inning off Ricky Nolasco.
Click the photo to be redirected to a clip of DeJesus' shot to right field.

Click the photo to be redirected to a clip of DeJesus’ shot to right field. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

  • Desmond Jennings in center or BJ Upton? I choose Jennings. Why? See below.
Click the photo to be redirected to video of Desmond Jennings' outstanding ninth inning  catch.

Click the photo to be redirected to video of Desmond Jennings’ outstanding ninth inning catch. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

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Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Josh Lueke, Rays Fall to Twins, 6-4

Desmond Jennings slides into second base as Eduardo Escobar misses the throw. Jennings advanced to third base on the error. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)

Desmond Jennings slides into second base as Eduardo Escobar misses the throw. Jennings advanced to third base on the error. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)

…And it came down to the 11th and 12th innings.

The 11th and 12th Innings

Josh Lueke last appeared against the Yankees Sunday, relinquishing the two hits which gave New York a four-run advantage — CJ Riefenhauser was charged with the runs. Fast forward to Wednesday when Lueke took the hill in the eleventh inning, with the game knotted up. Tasked with holding the Twins at four, Lueke quickly got Chris Herrmann to fly out to left on four pitches. He then got ahead of Eduardo Escobar, but with a 2-2 count, the Twins short stop doubled to right. With a runner in scoring position, Lueke came back to get Sam Fuld (swinging), and followed by inducing an inning ending Brian Dozier groundout.

Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, and Sean Rodriguez went down quietly, in order, in the Rays half of the 11th.

Lueke came back out in the 12th and gave up a single (to short) to Joe Mauer. Next up was Trevor Plouffe, who worked a full count, and doubled to left — advancing Mauer to third. The Twins’ newest hero, Chris Collabello, followed by sending a two-RBI single to center, giving the Twins the go ahead two-run advantage.

Evan Longoria, James Loney, and Wil Myers quietly went down quietly, in order, in the Rays half of the 12th. The Rays dropped their second extra inning game in a week, this time by a score of 6-4.

The New What Next

Day Game after a night game — the Rays will return to the Trop early Thursday when they take on the Twins in the final game of their home stand. Tampa Bay looks to hit the .500 mark once more, while preparing to head to Chicago on a wave of momentum.

The Rays had a fresh bullpen going into Wednesday night’s game, however it would be safe to say the relievers’ arms are tired at the moment. Jake Odorizzi lasted a bullpen taxing 3-1/3 innings. Joe Maddon was asked to describe the state of the bullpen, following the game Wednesday, to which he said, simply, “tired.” Maddon also acknowledged he hadn’t heard from Andrew Friedman regarding the potential for a roster move, which likely would come at the expense of Brandon Gomes since he still has options remaining — that is, unless they were willing to part ways with Josh Lueke.

Enter Erik Bedard, the starter in Thursday afternoon’s game. Joe Maddon had Bedard on a short leash in his 4 R/6 H/3.2 IP last Friday, and one would assume he’d be on a short leash in this, the final game of the series. If there was ever a time for the lefty to step up and eat innings, it’s now. Assuming Bedard doesn’t fare well, the Rays should have Juan Carlos Oviedo, Heath Bell, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta available. Brandon Gomes (threw 32 pitches over his 1-2/3 innings), Grant Balfour (threw 31 pitches over two innings), and Josh Lueke (threw 40 pitches in two innings) won’t be available. You can read more about the pitching match-up in our series preview.

Rays 4/24/14 Starting Lineup

Zobrist 2B
Jennings CF
Joyce LF
Longoria 3B
Loney 1B
Myers RF
DeJesus DH
Escobar SS
Molina C
Bedard LHP

Noteworthiness

  • I’d reckon it’s somewhat unfair to place all of the blame for the loss on Josh Lueke — after all, the Rays had an ample opportunity to break tie with the bases loaded in the fifth inning, and another bases loaded opportunity in the eighth. One extra run, literally, would have changed the course of the game. In the end however, the Rays had only a run to show for their efforts. Tampa Bay went 1-7 wRISP on the night, driving in only one two-out run. Run your cursor over the peaks in the corresponding innings (below, in the interactive chart) to see for yourself — that is, unless you were one of the frustrated, like me, who sat through those innings at the Trop.


Source: FanGraphs

  • I live blogged Wednesday night’s game from section 143. You can read a (almost complete) blow-by-blow account of things at our Tumblr page.
  • The Rays, “expect to see Bedard do better, and do things a little differently based on some suggested changes,” writes Marc Topkin. The Rays beat writer goes on to say, “Without getting into too much detail, Maddon said one suggestion was for Bedard to use his fastball that tops out at 90-92 mph “in other ways.’” Though he isn’t fighting for his job per se, it was mentioned that if Bedard doesn’t improve, the Rays would look to Triple-A Durham for help.

 

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Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Rays, Price Shut Down Twins, 7-3

David Price celebrates his complete-game win over the Minnesota Twins with manager Joe Maddon. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

David Price celebrates his complete-game win over the Minnesota Twins with manager Joe Maddon. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Going into this series, the Rays had one simple task at hand: take (at least) two of three from a team they could beat. In the interim, while Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson are on the DL, Tampa Bay needs to win series’ against teams like the Twins, while putting together a .500 record against teams like Boston and New York. David Price knew this well, and he responded in kind Tuesday night — putting together an impressive 112 pitch, complete game victory against Minnesota.

Since two of the X-Rays Spex goobers (myself included) attended a Cloud Nothings show last night, what follows is a game peripherals recap of the contest. With an eye on the stage, and the other on the venue’s television, I live blogged most of the game. If you’re so inclined, you can read the blow-by-blow account of the game at our Tumblr page.


Source: FanGraphs

Game Peripherals

  • Despite laying a three run, four hit (including two homers), fourth inning egg, David Price was on point. The Rays ace pounded the zone in his 9 IP/6 H/3 ER/1 BB/12 K/2 HR 112 pitch (77 strikes, 68% K/BB) outing, owning both sides of the plate against the Twins offense. Price worked efficiently, using his cutter 23 times (21 strike, seven whiffs), while also keeping the Twinkies off balance with his change-up (27 thrown, 14 strikes, three whiffs). On the subject of Price’s start, Ian Malinowski of DRaysBay said it best, “It is performances like this from the top of the rotation that will give Joe Maddon an opportunity to piece together a competitive game on the Cesar Ramos/Erik Bedard nights.”
  • Price pounds the zone and, sometimes he gets hurt — literally and figuratively. In the fourth inning, Joe Mauer lined ball back at Price, which hit him square in his midsection. Price didn’t make a play, and Mauer reached on an awkward infield single. After the hit came perilously close to his reproductive region, Price laughed it off to his teammates, and training staff, who met on the mound following the play.
(Photo collage, courtesy of Will Vragovic.)

(Photo collage, courtesy of Will Vragovic.)

  • Upon entering the Trop, Kyle Gibson had given up only two runs all season, and only two-hits to righties — all the while sitting pretty with a 0.93 ERA. My how that changed following his 3 IP/10 H/2 BB/86 pitch outing. Simply put, the Rays blew up his ERA four-fold. Tampa Bay scored all their runs in the first, second, and fourth innings, and I was most impressed with their ability to take back a pair of runs after Price relinquished three in the fourth.
  • The aforementioned inning went a little something like this: Ben Zobrist led off the fourth with a base hit — putting the lead-off man on the base paths for the third time in four innings. Desmond Jennings followed with his second base hit of the night. Ron Gardenhire pulled Gibson at this point, and Samuel Deduno inherited a pair of runners with no outs, bringing Matt Joyce to the plate. Joyce came up big, crushing a two-RBI double to center — giving the Rays a four run lead they’d hold for the rest of the game.
  • David DeJesus entered the Trop in the throes of an ugly 0-24 streak, and left last night having gone 3-4 with three RBI.

The New What Next

Jake Odorizzi and the Tampa Bay Rays will take on Mike Pelfrey and the Minnesota Twins Wednesday night, in the second game of their three game set at the Trop. You can read about Wdnesday night’s match-up, and more, in our series preview. The Rays have an opportunity to go one game over .500 with a win tonight.

Rays 4/23/14 Starting Lineup

Zobrist LF
Jennings CF
Joyce DH
Longo 3B
Loney 1B
Myers RF
Forsythe 2B
Escobar SS
Hanigan
Odorizzi RHP

Noteworthiness

  • A rather bizarre play happened in the fifth inning, when Yunel Escobar was batting against Deduno with a 3-2 count. Deduno let loose with a high ball, which should have culminated in a walk. However, the call was unclear, and Escobar inquired as to what was up. The umpires went to a video review, and New York decided to make it a full count, rather than a walk. Escobar struck out on the next pitch, in a 4-2 count. Major League Baseball later issued statement that they erred on the review, saying ball four was ruled a foul ball.
  • Since David Price’s return from the DL last July 2, he has five complete games — as many as any TEAM in that span. Also, per Elias Sports, David Price is first lefty in five years to record 40 K’s in his first five starts of the season (the last being Johan Santana in 2009).
  • The Rays have doubled in all 20 games, and are the only team with one in all games in all of their games. The AL record is 28 set by both the 2012 Royals and 2006 Indians.
  • Per the Rays, Matt Moore underwent successful Tommy John surgery in Pensacola, Tuesday. Here’s to wishing Matt a speedy, full recovery.
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Rays 4/22/14 Starting Lineup, Etc.

Me? I prefer Nutrogena T-Gel.

Me? I prefer Neutrogena T-Gel.

Rays 4/22/14 Starting Lineup

Zobrist 2B
Jennings CF
Joyce DH
Longo 3B
Loney 1B
Myers RF
DeJesus LF
Escobar SS
Molina C
Price LHP

Noteworthiness

  • After more pre-game work (testing his groin) at the Trop, CF Desmond Jennings is back in the lineup tonight, hitting second.
  • Sam Fuld, who’s returning to the Trop for the first time in a Twins uniform, is not in lineup against Rays.
  • The Rays have activated Juan Carlos Oviedo from the DL. The fastball/splitter throwing pitcher will join the ranks in the bullpen, and could see action tonight. Per Joe Smith of the Times, Oviedo says he’s excited to finally be back, (his) arm feels great, (and he’s) hoping to pitch in first big league game since 2011.
  • Don’t forget to check out our Rays vs. Twins series preview. If you’ve already done so, rinse and repeat — after all, Joe Mauer compels you to do as much.
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The New What Next: Rays vs Twins — A Series Preview of Sorts

Wil Myers celebrates with Matt Joyce and James Loney after Myers' three-run home run during the fifth inning of a game against the New York Yankees. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Wil Myers celebrates with Matt Joyce and James Loney after Myers’ three-run home run during the fifth inning of a game against the New York Yankees. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

The Rays will try to get their bats going again after a 5-1 loss in 12 innings to the Yankees on Sunday. They totaled 32 hits while outscoring New York 27-6 on Friday and Saturday following Price’s loss in the series opener. However, Tampa Bay managed only one run on six hits Sunday, striking out 14 times after fanning a combined 10 times in the previous two contests. Matt Joyce’s seventh-inning sacrifice fly provided the lone run. The Twins avoided a sweep Sunday with an 8-3 win in Kansas City. Minnesota was 6-for-14 wRISP after going 6-for-34 in their previous four games.

The Rays took the Knutson Cup, once again, from the Twin this past spring. They’ve also dominated Minnesota since 2008, posting a 29-14 record. Tampa Bay is 33-26 at Tropicana Field, and they won six of seven last year.

Of note: the Twins will start Kyle Gibson against David Price Tuesday — not Mike Pelfrey. Price is coming off a six run, 10 hit outing Friday. His worst three earned run totals allowed last season were 8, 6 and 5. In his outings immediately following those starts, he posted a 2.45 ERA while striking out 22 batters in as many innings. One could only hope for similar results. After all, at 3-0 with an 0.93 ERA, Gibson will prove to be tough. Price is 2-2 with a 2.66 ERA in seven career games — six starts — against the Twins.

Kyle Gibson has been called a revelation through his first three starts — especially given his struggles as a rookie in 2013, when he went 2-4 with a 6.53 ERA in 10 outings. Gibson was solid in the Twins 7-0 win over Toronto on Thursday, yielding only four hits and a walk over eight innings. He gave up four runs in six innings of a 4-1 loss at Tampa Bay on July 9th in his third major league outing.

At one game over .500, the Twins are ahead of what was expected of them this season. They’re 6-4 in their last 10 games, and they are 1.5 games back in the AL Central.

Rays and Twins series starters.

Rays and Twins series starters.

Rays and Twins offensive production at home, away, and overall.

Rays and Twins offensive production at home, away, and overall.

By the Numbers-1

Rays and Twins, by the numbers.

Kyle Gibson: Per Rotowire, “Gibson (3-0) shut down the Blue Jays for eight innings Thursday, allowing just four hits and a walk while striking out four.” Gibson offers a 90-94 MPH fastball, a plus slider — which he uses to miss bats — and a plus change-up. The 25 year-old RHP works comfortably in the lower range, but has the strength to add a bit of extra oomph when necessary.

Mike Pelfrey: RHP Mike Pelfrey is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in one start (6 IP) against the Rays, back in 2013. Small sample size or not, a handful of Rays have put together some good numbers against Pelfrey. Look at the bright side: he doesn’t frequently throw pitches in that low-and-outside quadrant that Evan Longoria and Wil Myers seem to have a hard time against. Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (5-18, 2B, RBI, 2 BB), Ryan Hanigan (1-3), Matt Joyce (1-3), Evan Longoria (3-6, 2B, HR, RBI), Wil Myers (2-3, RBI), Sean Rodriguez (1-2).

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 6.52.37 AM

Ricky Nolasco: Nolasco allowed five runs on 11 hits, striking out three over 5.2 innings of a 5-0 loss to the Royals on Friday night. More importantly, the Rays have had a lot of success against Nolasco, extending back to his tenure with the Marlins, tagging him with an 0-3 record and a 5.60 ERA in his last three starts. Key match-ups: Yunel Escobar (10-29, 3 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Logan Forsythe (3-3, HR, 2 RBI), Ryan Hanigan (2-8, HR, RBI), Matt Joyce (3-6, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB), Sean Rodriguez (1-4, HR, RBI), Ben Zobrist (4-8, 2B, RBI, 3 BB).

Noteworthiness

  • Joe Mauer has a career .374 average against Tampa Bay, his highest batting average against any American League club, though he’s just 2 for 14 off Price. That .143 average is tied for the 11th-lowest among the 144 pitchers whom he has faced at least 10 times.
  • Minnesota RF Jason Kubel is off to a good start in his return to the Twins, batting .328 with 11 RBI.
  • Ben Zobrist boasts a .398 on-base percentage and has scored 14 runs — five more than anyone else on the team.
  • The Rays are last in the league with only four stolen bases and Minnesota is tied for ninth with 13 — five by Brian Dozier.
  • The Rays have activated Juan Carlos Oviedo from the DL. The fastball/splitter throwing pitcher will join the ranks in the bullpen, and could see action Tuesday night. Per Joe Smith of the Times, Oviedo says he’s excited to finally be back, (his) arm feels great, (and he’s) hoping to pitch in first big league game since 2011.
  • This is pretty awesome! This interactive graph of batter-pitcher matchup projections, for every game of the series, was created by Ian Malinowski of DRaysBay and Jason Hanselman (Dock of the Rays). It incorporates Bojan Koprivica’s research on regressing platoon splits and ZiPS projections. The grey line is at an average wOBA of .320
  • Daniel Russell of DRaysBay spoke with John Sickels, who runs the SB Nation site Minor League Ball, and asked a few questions regarding some key players in the organization. For anyone interested in the pitching depth aspect of the Rays organization, especially in this time of need, this interview is for you!
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