Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Rays Crush Jays, 12-3

Brandon Guyer made an excellent diving play in the fifth to rob the Dalton Pompey of an extra base hit. (Photo credit: the Tampa Bay Rays)

The Tampa Bay Rays rolled to their third consecutive victory on Friday, beating up on Toronto’s R.A. Dickey in a 12-3 victory.

Trailing by two in the fourth, the team erupted for four runs against Dickey, leading the former Cy Young Award winner to say, “I threw some really bad ones tonight that they hit. Sometimes those get popped up or not swung at. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes you stink. Tonight it stunk,” following the contest. Evan Longoria finally got a pitch to hit and belted a double to left-center, while James Loney (2-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI) — fresh off the DL — homered to right to tie the game at two.

Later in the inning, Rene Rivera capped the rally with a two-run blast to deep centerfield — his first home run of the season. The Rays are now back above .500 after improving to 9-8 on the season.

Tampa Bay put up five more runs in the fifth, consequently chasing Dickey from the game early, and tagging the knuckleballer for his second straight less-than quality outing. Brandon Guyer was hit by a 69 MPH knuckleball to start the rally, scoring on Asdrubal Cabrera’s triple to left center. Longoria (1-4, 2B, R, RBI) followed with a sac fly to deep right-center, giving the Rays a dominating 6-2 lead. Loney beat the shift by hitting a bloop double to left, and Desmond Jennings followed with a hard single to center to move put runners at the corners.

Dickey departed after the Jays couldn’t turn double-play scoring Loney scored and extending the Rays lead. With Jeff Francis on the hill in relief, Kevin Kiermaier hit a high fly ball to deep left center. As outfielders Steve Tolleson and Dalton Pompey came close to colliding, the ball glanced off Tolleson’s glove. Forsythe and Kiermaier circled the bases, in what could aptly be described as a little league inside the park homer, capping a five-run rally.

The Outlaw doing Outlaw things. (GIF credit, the Tampa Bay Rays)

The Outlaw doing Outlaw things. (GIF credit, the Tampa Bay Rays)

Tampa Bay added to its lead in the seventh against Francis when Kiermaier singled home a run, and Tim Beckham (2-2, HR, R, 2 RBI) belted a two-run homer to left on a hanging breaking pitch. Oddly enough, all three of Beckham’s homer homers came in games he didn’t start.

The offensive outburst came in Smyly’s solid return to the rotation after being sidelined with shoulder tendinitis. The lefty put down the first 10 batters in order, five via strikeout (four swinging) in his 4-2/3 IP start. Although he allowed a solo homer to Devon Travis, as well as three more singles in the fourth, Smyly retired the next four batters.

Smyly threw 79 pitches and surrendered just the two runs on four hits — coming within one out of winning his first start of the season:

That’s baseball, said Smyly. I had a pre-determined pitch count and it stinks that it landed with one out to go in the fifth.

Smyly’s pitch count was 75-to-80 pitches.

Manager Kevin Cash told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) the decision to lift Smyly without getting the win was “on me,” due to a strict pitch count, also noting he apologized to the lefty:

Extremely unfortunate that his pitch count kind of got to the difficult decision-making zone, and that’s on me that we had to prioritize his health over his record at this point. I apologize to him, but that’s the plan we had in place and we wanted to stick to it.

Smyly’s mix:

Fastball (both two and four seam) 33 (26 strikes, 3 whiffs)
Change-up 8 (six strikes, 2 whiffs)
Slider 27 (18 strikes, 2 whiffs)
Cutter 11 (5 strikes, 1 whiff)

Smyly’s velocity range:

78 mph (off-speed pitch) – 94 (fastball)

Jose Dominguez got the last out in the fifth and threw a hitless sixth to earn his first MLB win, and Matt Andriese pitched the final three innings for his first career save. Other than a solo shot off the bat of Justin Smoak in the ninth, and a Danny Valencia double, Andriese looked excellent.

The Rays optioned Dominguez to Triple-A Durham after the game, corresponding by selecting LHP Everett Teaford from Triple-A Durham, and designating 1B Allan Dykstra for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster. Cash named Erasmo Ramirez as the starter Saturday, leaving a huge question in the balance: with a big lead on the scoreboard, why did he opt to go with Andriese Friday night instead of Ramirez? I think it is safe to say the confidence level in Ramirez is nil at best.

The New What Next

Erasmo Ramirez will take the hill for the Rays Saturday. He’ll pitch opposite of LHP Daniel Norris. Ramirez was roughed up by the Jays in his only start of the season, allowing eight earned runs and nine hits in 3-1/3 innings at Rogers Centre. Norris hopes to move past his self described dead-arm phase. And while he isn’t hurt, Norris’ velocity and movement on his pitches hasn’t quite been there so far this season. You can read about the pitching match-up (and so much more) in our series preview.

Rays 4/25/15 Starting Lineup

Guyer LF
Souza Jr. RF
Cabrera SS
Longoria 3B
Jennings CF
Forsythe 1B
Beckham DH
Elmore 2B
Wilson C
Ramirez RHP

Noteworthiness

— Alex Cobb felt great after throwing 22 fastballs in his first bullpen session since being sidelined during spring training by forearm tendinitis. He was excited for the chance to be that much closer to a comeback, telling the Tampa Bay Times,

You put a little more into it when you’re on the mound. Your mechanics come together, and you try to re-teach yourself how to pitch again. It’s a big deal getting on there. …I feel like once you do have the opportunity to step a foot on the mound, you can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel and you can kind of map out your progression.

— Closer Jake McGee is scheduled to throw off a mound Saturday. His rehab assignment is expected to start soon.
— Former, and beloved, Ray Ben Zobrist has been sidelined and will likely miss the future series at the Trop. Per columnist John Shea, Zobrist has a torn meniscus that will be trimmed. The injury came when he landed wrong on a slide into second. Zobrist is expected to miss four-six weeks, although he hopes to return sooner.

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Rays 4/24/15 Starting Lineup, Smyly and Loney Officially Activated, Etc

(Photo credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

(Photo credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

Rays 4/24/15 Starting Lineup

DeJesus DH
Guyer LF
Cabrera SS
Longoria 3B
Loney 1B
Jennings CF
Forsythe 2B
Kiermaier RF
Rivera C
Smyly LHP

Noteworthiness

  • James Loney and Drew Smyly have officially been activated from the disabled list! Allan Dykstra was optioned to Triple-A Durham last night to make room for Loney on the 25-man roster.
  • Loney is hitting fifth! Steven Souza Jr. isn’t in the lineup; fear not, it’s just a day off.
  • Alex Cobb told the media he feels “great” after his first bullpen session: “it’s good first step.”
  • If you haven’t read our Rays/Jays series preview, get on it! If you already have, make it a two’fer.

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The New What Next: Rays vs. Blue Jays — A Series Preview, Part Deux

The Outlaw doing outlaw things. (Photo credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

The Tampa Bay Rays sent that team from Boston (and their pink hatted fans) packing Thursday night, tripping up the Red Sox by a score of 2-1 in walk-off fashion and walking away with their first home series win of the season. The Rays will welcome the Toronto Blue Jays into the Trop for a three-game, weekend series.

Good times for a change; Tampa Bay welcomes back a pair of pivotal players from the DL on Friday — Drew Smyly and James Loney.

Smyly went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA in six starts with the Rays last season. Though his first start of the season has been deferred by a few weeks, thanks to a bout with shoulder tendinitis, he’ll look to pick up where he left off last season. The best outing of Smyly’s career, ironically, came against the Blue Jays on August 22, when he tossed a two-hitter in an 8-0 win for his only complete game.

As for Loney, the Rays first baseman went 1-4 with a double in his only rehab start Thursday night with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. The re-addition of Loney to the roster offers the team defensive stability at first, and protection for Evan Longoria in the lineup.

Toronto will also face Chris Archer again, less than a week after he dominated them at the Rogers Centre. Archer limited Toronto to two hits in six innings, and has not given up an earned run in his last three starts (a team record).

The Jays are coming off a sweep of the Orioles, playing the last two without Jose Bautista due to a right shoulder soreness. Manager John Gibbons said Bautista will likely DH for a couple of days when he returns, although it’s not known whether that will be during this series or not. Whatever the case, Bautista was 1 for 11 with a homer and four walks in in the previous series against Tampa Bay.

Also on the shelf for Toronto is former Ray, and current backup catcher, Dioner Navarro with a strained left hamstring.

Devon Travis went 7-15 with a homer and two doubles in last week’s series while Edwin Encarnacion was held hitless in 14 at-bats. Encarnacion and Bautista are a combined 0-7 against Smyly. Expect the Rays to focus the glut of their attention on mitigating the threats in Toronto’s powerful lineup.

RA Dickey vs. Drew Smyly: Dickey’s streak of nine straight quality starts came to an end on Saturday. The knuckleballer surrendered two homers and walked four in a no-decision against the Braves. Smyly will make his first start of the season after leaving Spring Training in early March with left shoulder tendinitis. Smyly went 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA in seven starts with the Rays last year.

Daniel Norris vs. TBA: Norris is coming off the shortest outing of his brief career, lasting only 2-2/3 innings against Atlanta and allowing five runs. Norris posted a 5 IP/2 H/2 ER/1 HR/3 BB/4 K line against Tampa Bay on the 14th. The Rays list Saturday’s starter as TBA. RHP Matt Andriese would be available, though the Rays may be waiting to see whether they need him Friday in relief of Smyly. The Rays also could use RHP Erasmo Ramirez.On Saturday’s starter, Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) noted that the Rays could start Matt Andriese, Erasmo Ramirez, or Alex Colome Saturday:

Another option could be RHP Alex Colome, who would be on short rest after throwing in a rehab game Tuesday. Colome, who had been on the DL while recovering from pneumonia, will throw a bullpen session today.

Mark Buehrle vs. Chris Archer: Buehrle has enjoyed a pretty easy ride to the start of the season. Toronto scored 37 runs across his three outings, leading to three easy wins. Buehrle recorded a quality start in each outing. Archer has gone three straight starts without allowing an earned run, tying the club record (also shared by Alex Cobb and Matt Moore). Archer has not allowed an earned run since the sixth inning of his Opening Day start.

Rays and Blue Jays series starters.

Rays and Blue Jays series starters.

Rays and Blue Jays offensive production.

Rays and Blue Jays offensive production.

Rays and Blue Jays by the numbers.

Rays and Blue Jays by the numbers.

RA Dickey: Per RotoWire, Dickey escaped with a no-decision Saturday, allowing four runs on four hits (including two home runs) and four walks in seven innings, while striking out six. Despite posting a quality start against the Rays on the 13th, Tampa Bay took a 2-1 win due in large part to their ability to work five walks. As the saying goes, if it’s high let it fly, if it’s low let it go. Key-matchups: Asdrubal Cabrera (4-11, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB), Logan Forsythe (3-11, 2 2B, 2 RBI), Evan Longoria (8-33, 3 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 4 BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-2, RBI, BB).

Daniel Norris: Per RotoWire, Norris complained of a dead arm phase after Sunday’s start against the Braves, but he checked out fine when the Blue Jays looked into it. As I wrote of Norris previously, colloquially called the Van Man, the 21 year-old left-hander has explosive late life to his fastball with a great finish, making his 92 mph seem more like 96. According to Baseball America, his slider rates average to plus and his change-up flashes plus. Norris also features what has been described as a hammer curve ball that has been described as devastating. Key match-ups: Brandon Guyer (1-2, 2B, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3, HR, RBI).

Mark Buehrle: Per RotoWire, Buehrle struck out two and walked one while holding the Orioles to three runs on eight hits over six innings to improve to 3-0 on the season. The soft tosser has been a chronic thorn in the side of Tampa Bay. Whatever the case, the Rays were able to tag Buehrle for three runs on seven hits, including a massive shot off the bat of Souza Jr. in his previous start vs. Tampa Bay. Key match-ups: Tim Beckham (1-2), Logan Forsythe (8-19, 3 2B, RBI, BB), Brandon Guyer (4-15, 2 2B, BB), Desmond Jennings (10-25, 2B, RBI, 4 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (2-8, RBI), James Loney (6-24, 3 2B), Evan Longoria (13-44, 2 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB), Mikie Mahtook (1-1, HR), Steven Souza Jr. (1-3, HR, RBI).

Noteworthiness

— The team will activate both Drew Smyly and James Loney from the DL. Loney was deemed recovered from an oblique strain after going 1-for-4 as the DH in a rehab game on Thursday. Allan Dykstra was optioned back to Triple-A Durham.

— With the activation of Drew Smyly today, 16 of the 25 players on the Rays active roster were acquired by trade.

— There is a possibility that Alex Colome, who has made three rehab starts while recovering from pneumonia and said, may be activated before Saturday’s game. Colome told the media he felt ready to return after throwing a bullpen session Thursday, though the team seems more likely to have him make another rehab start in an effort to get him stretched out.

— With last night, Jake Odorizzi has 11 starts of six plus IP allowing three hits and one tun or fewer — the most in MLB since start of 2014.

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Rays 4/23/15 Starting Lineup, Etc

Jake Elmore watches a home run off relief pitcher Edward Mujica during the seventh inning Wednesday. (Photo credit: AP Photo/O'Meara)

Jake Elmore watches a home run off relief pitcher Edward Mujica during the seventh inning Wednesday. (Photo credit: AP Photo/O’Meara)

Rays 4/23/15 Starting Lineup

DeJesus DH
Souza Jr. RF
Cabrera SS
Longoria 3B
Jennings LF
Dykstra 1B
Forsythe 2B
Kiermaier CF
Rivera C
Odorizzi RHP

Noteworthiness

  • Jake Odorizzi will take the bump opposite of Clay Buttholes…urm, Buchholz in the series finale against the Red Sox. A win tonight equals a win in the first series of the season against David Ortiz and his tribe of Masshooles. You can read about the pitching match-up in our series preview.
  • The Rays have recalled OF Mikie Mahtook from Triple-A Durham and placed LHP C.J. Riefenhauser on the 15-day DL (left shoulder inflammation). Rifenhauser becomes the 12th Rays player on the DL. The reliever told Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) he’s been a little sore since the weekend, however Riefenhauser is confident it’s only inflammation and will be back in two weeks.
  • Should James Loney hit fifth when he returns? We think so.
  • A pretty interesting take on the Rays 0-9 replay challenge mark. In short, manager Kevin Cash is both good and bad at challenges, often relying upon his initial reaction in his decision to contest a call, rather than waiting for the go ahead from the Rays’ video coordinator “Chico” Fernandez.
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The Case For James Loney Hitting Fifth

Desmond Jennings entered the 2015 season with high expectations placed on his performance .

Desmond Jennings entered the 2015 season with high expectations placed upon his shoulders; a sizzling .435 BA/1.036 OPS spring upped the ante for the 28 year-old outfielder. No longer at the top of the order, now hitting fifth, Jennings now himself tasked with another challenge: offering protection for the cleanup hitter, Evan Longoria. Yet Jennings started the season tepidly, slashing .212 BA/.311 OBP/.212 SLG/.523 OPS leading many to wonder if the five hole is the best place for him. With the imminent return of James Loney in the near future, my premise is simple — Loney is better suited than Desmond to hit fifth.

Jennings has amassed 49 at-bats in the fifth spot thus far, slashing an ice cold .204 BA/.298 OBP/.204 SLG/.504 OPS/.241 wOBA line, with a sub optimal .000 ISO. And while he had a good night at the plate Wednesday, going 2-for-4 with a run, one can’t help but feel nervous by his overall run production — Jennings only has two RBI to speak of, although the season is young. Desmond features decent power peripherals, something that lead to the decision by Kevin Cash and Matt Silverman to bat him behind Longoria. Even so, his overall production speaks to he being a top or bottom of the order guy — .247 BA/.324 OBP/.400 SLG/.724 OPS/.153 ISO/.320 wOBA leading off; .279 BA/.356 OBP/.385 SLG/.741 OPS/.106 ISO/.331 wOBA hitting seventh. Moreover, Jennings’paltry .100 BA and .100 SLG with runners in scoring position doesn’t really bolster anyone’s confidence in his ability to protect Longoria.

Because of it, opposing pitchers have concluded they can pitch around Longoria to get to Jennings. Take for example a high leverage situation from Monday night’s contest against the Red Sox. As Longo made his way into the batter’s box (in the sixth inning) Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves quickly made his way to the mound to talk strategy with Boston starter Wade Miley. The content of the conversation was obvious to anyone watching the game. It’s not a stretch to assume Miley was instructed to walk Longoria in order to get to Jennings. That particular game of chess worked. Miley walked Longoria, in one of the most intentional-unintentional walks I’ve ever seen, consequently loading the bases for Jennings. Miley was able to coax a weak grounder out of Jennings to end the inning.

Juxtapose Jennings with Loney who is a quiet, productive, and consistent presence in the fifth spot. Loney slashed a healthy .284 BA/.337 OBP/.389 SLG/.726 OPS when he hit fifth in 2014 (in 370 at-bats), boasting a .105 ISO and 46 RBI. Loney’s career numbers mirror his one season production. When you consider that almost half of his career runs batted in (245 of 603) and hits — including doubles and homers — came hitting fifth in the order, the need for Loney to hit behind Longoria becomes apparent. On the bright side, Loney hit fifth on Opening Day and I’d take that as a sign of Cash’s willingness to put him back there when he returns from the DL this weekend.

Noteworthiness

— Since this obviously isn’t a recap of Wednesday night’s game, you can read a few brief notes on the Rays 7-5 contest against the Red Sox at our Tumblr page.

— James Loney’s rehab assignment with the Charlotte Stone Crabs begins Thursday:

— Drew Smyly is pleased the Rays agreed to allow him to return after three rehab starts instead of four. It’s believed he will be good for 85-90 pitches:

I feel ready, my arm’s ready. Obviously it might take another start or two to build my pitch count up to where these guys are at right now.

On Saturday’s starter… Marc Topkin noted that the Rays could start Matt Andriese, Erasmo Ramirez, or Alex Colome Saturday:

The Rays list Saturday’s starter as TBA. RHP Matt Andriese would be available, though the Rays may be waiting to see whether they need him Friday in relief of Smyly. The Rays also could use RHP Erasmo Ramirez.

Another option could be RHP Alex Colome, who would be on short rest after throwing in a rehab game Tuesday. Colome, who had been on the DL while recovering from pneumonia, will throw a bullpen session today.

— Alex Cobb is set to throw off the mound for the first time Friday. Cobb played catch Wednesday with no pain, a good sign indeed.

A pretty interesting take on the Rays 0-9 replay challenge mark. In short, manager Kevin Cash is both good and bad at challenges, often relying upon his initial reaction in his decision to contest a call, rather than waiting for the go ahead from the Rays’ video coordinator “Chico” Fernandez.

 

 

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