Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Rays Strike Back, 7-0

Logan Forsythe in a post game interview with Todd Kalas.

Logan Forsythe in a post game interview with Todd Kalas. (Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Rays)

For those of you pining for the acerbity of the Rays and Red Sox games of yore, the acrimonious linkage returned to The Trop Saturday night, in what would go down as one of the more truly bizarre games in recent history. A power outage to start the game, five hit batsmen, and a TKO of Dustin Pedroia later, the Tampa Bay Rays walked away with a combined 7-0, one hit shutout of the Boston Red Sox.

As a storm raged outside of Tropicana Field, a reported lightning strike caused a power surge that resulted in the dimming of some of the stadium lights. After a 12 minute delay, the fireworks began inside.

Both sides went down in order in the first, while Jake Odorizzi racked up the first of seven strikeouts. However, in the second inning, Odorizzi came up and in on with a pitch that squarely nailed Yoenis Cespedes. As Cespedes took his base, he gave Odorizzi a menacing glare – a foreboding warning of what was to come in the bottom of the inning.

As if on cue, Allen Webster hit Evan Longoria with a pitch to start the bottom half of the frame. If this was and intentional act, what followed blew up in the face of John Farrell and his crew. James Loney sent an RBI double to deep right field, scoring Longo from first. Brandon Guyer followed with a single through the left side, and Logan Forsythe walked his way on to load the bases. Ryan Hanigan launched a deep sac-fly into center which put the Rays up 2-0.

…And the next round of fireworks were primed and ready to go off.

Both Guyer and Forsythe aggressively tagged up on Hanigan’s sac-fly as well, with Forsythe’s being the more substantial of the two. Forsythe slid into second head first as Pedroia fielded the throw from center field. When Logan made a swim motion to avoid the tag, his elbow connected with the side of Pedroia’s head. The impact left Pedroia face down on the field – resulting in him leaving the game for precautionary reasons after he exhibited symptoms consistent with a concussion.

Dustin Pedroia is injured after colliding with Logan Forsythe during the second inning. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Dustin Pedroia is injured after colliding with Logan Forsythe during the second inning. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Forsythe’s aim wasn’t to injure the Red Sox’s second baseman, and he was clearly apologetic. After the game, Forsythe was asked if he hit Pedroia on purpose,

“Absolutely not. I’m definitely not that kind of player. The only move that I made was to try to swim-move the tag to get out of the way. It was a bang-bang play, and the way he came down, too — it was a hard play.”

Farrell certainly didn’t think Forsythe had any intent to hurt Pedroia,

“Pedey’s coming in to try to put a quick tag on him. Momentum looked like with Forsythe’s head-first slide, he struck him with his elbow, that much was clear,” said Farrell. “It looked like the momentum took him across the bag. He’s reaching out ahead of him to try to brace himself and not slide past the bag. As he’s reaching forward, he caught him with a good elbow to the left side of the head.”

Once the game resumed, Ben Zobrist hit a grounder to second that scored Guyer from third. Zobrist beat out the throw on the back end of the double play attempt, but Wil Myers struck out to end the inning with a 3-0 lead.

With two on and one out in the fourth, Webster hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch on the hands to load the bases with one out. For whatever reason, Farrell challenged call to see if the ball made contact with Kiermaier or the bat. The call was quickly confirmed. Zobrist put the Rays up 4-0 with an RBI ground out. But with a pair of runners in scoring position, Myers ended the inning with his second strikeout of the night.

Tampa Bay scored three more runs in the fifth inning. It all started with Matt Joyce and Longo on base following a walk and single (respectively). Brandon Guyer laid down a beautiful bunt that only David Ross could field. However, Ross’s throw was offline and the Rays base runners were off and running after the ball bounded away. Joyce and Longo both scored, putting the Rays up by six runs. Forsythe, appropriately, scored the final run on a sac-fly to right that plated Guyer and gave the Rays a 7-0 lead.

Overall, Jake Odorizzi was outstanding. He stayed out of trouble until the seventh when he looked like he was running out of gas. Jake walked the bases loaded with two outs, but managed to induce a weak popper out of Xander Bogaerts to get out of the jam unscathed.

Odorizzi tinkered under the hood between starts, rebounding nicely following his rough outing Monday. Of note, he followed through better rather than “spinning off pitches.”

“I was rotational last time and today I was down through,” Odorizzi said. “It wasn’t running, it was going right where I wanted it to and kept it where I wanted to.

“The action was completely different than the other day. [Monday night] was just kind of a weird thing had happened. Minor tweak changes it and changes everything. But when you get in that habit during the game, it’s kind of a tough thing to adjust when you’re in the heat of battle type of thing. But I worked on it in the ‘pen, got back to normal.”

He had a particularly deadly cutter/slider combo that that baffled Cespedes in the top of the seventh. Odorizzi’s final line: 7.0 IP/1 H/0 ER/3 BB/7 K on 103 pitches (65 strikes).

The New What Next

Alex Cobb will oppose Clay Buchholz and the Red Sox, Sunday afternoon. If I may, Buchholz (5-8, 5.77 ERA) has been abysmal this season. The Red Sox are 4-8 in their last 12 games when Buchholz has taken the  mound. Meanwhile, the 30 year-old RHP has given four or more runs in seven of those 12 games. Red Sox GM Ben suggested that Buchholz doesn’t have a consistent feel for his secondary pitches, namely his changeup. “He’s always been a guy who’s gotten hitters out with his entire mix, not by being a fastball-dominant pitcher, not by relying exclusively on one pitch, but by mixing and using all his pitches in all parts of the zone and being hard to hit because he’s unpredictable,” Said Cherington. “He just has not had a feel for the entire mix this year. That’s sort of the end result.” You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 8/31/14 Starting Lineup

Kiermaier CF
Guyer LF
Joyce RF
Longoria 3B
Loney DH
Forsythe 2B
Escobar SS
Molina C
Rodriguez 1B
Cobb RHP

Noteworthiness

  • Wil Myers went 0-5 with two strikeouts and six LOB. Ouch.
  • The other two Rays who were hit by pitches were Guyer in the seventh, and Hanigan in the eighth for a grand total of four.
  • Tampa Bay is expected to call up Curt Casali, Brandon Gomes, and Steve Geltz. They also plan to activate David DeJesus Monday. Geltz will wear number 54, and the Rays will have to make a 40-man roster move to add him.
  • On the subject of trading Yunel Escobar, Marc Topkin wrote, “Trading SS Yunel Escobar or even letting him go to the A’s via last week’s waiver claim might have been a popular move, including in some corners of the clubhouse. But the Rays had several reasons not to: They are confident he will play next season more like his stellar 2013 and less like this year; don’t fear him being an attitude or behavioral problem; didn’t feel they have anyone else in house to play short for what they expect to be a contending team (not comfortable that Ben Zobrist could handle it every day in a season he’ll turn 34, or that Nick Franklin is good enough defensively, or that either Hak-Ju Lee or Tim Beckham will be ready coming off major knee injuries); and weren’t likely to sign or acquire anyone as good for as little as they’ll pay Escobar ($5 million).”
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Looking Backward While Moving Forward: Red Sox Rip Rays, 8-4

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David Ortiz walks back to the dugout after he flied out to center. (Photo courtesy of Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

It didn’t feel like a Rays/Red Sox game Friday night. It also didn’t feel like a contest that was relevant or important — and let’s be honest, it wasn’t. From the half empty stands to the hushed crowd, the atmosphere at The Trop felt stale. And despite what Joe Maddon said, about the Rays still having a shot at the playoffs, the good guys are playing as though they’ve resigned themselves to mediocrity. The first and second innings epitomized that feeling to a T. If only the Rays could be credited with a win based on their play in segments, not as a whole — they easily would have won the game from the third through ninth innings.

Let’s look at the first and second innings.

Brock Holt led off the game with a 3-2 single to right. Dustin Pedroia followed with a five pitch walk, advancing Holt to second base. Chris Archer, though missing his location in the first two at-bats — something that would plague him throughout the course of his start — was able to coax a fly-ball out of David Ortiz for the first out of the inning, yet Yoenis Cespedes put the Sox on the board early with a single to right; scoring Holt from second and advancing Pedroia advanced to third. Daniel Nava followed a strikeout of Mike Napoli with an RBI single which moved Cespedes to second. Down by two with two outs, Archer made the Rays first error of the night on a ball off the bat of Mookie Betts, loading the bases for Will Middlebrooks who hit an RBI single up the middle. Three runs and 28 pitches later, Archer was able to coax a grounder out of Christian Vazquez to end the inning. The second inning wasn’t much better.

Holt led off the second with another single, bringing Pedroia to the plate. Pedroia promptly lined out to Joyce in right field for the first out. With one out, and the shift on for Big Papi, Archer coaxed what should have been an inning ending double play — yet wasn’t. James Loney fielded the ball at first and promptly threw to Yunel Escobar to get the lead runner at second. Yet – in a moment of deja vu — Escobar threw wide of first on the back end of the play and failed to turn another double play for the second time in two days. The failed play, which should have ended the inning, proved costly. Cespedes plated Boston’s fourth run on a double to right… And Boston still wasn’t done. Archer proceeded to walk and hit the next two batters (Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava respectively) which loaded the bases for Mookie Betts. Betts responded by hitting a 1-0 grand slam to left field.

A Rays loss was a forgone conclusion by that point. Regardless of Kevin Kiermaier’s RBI single to center in the second, Brandon Guyer’s two run no doubter to left in the fifth, or the late one run uprising in the ninth, Escobar’s throwing error was responsible for an unrecoverable five-run second inning. To put it bluntly, Escobar, over the last two games, has cost the Rays seven runs and two wins, thanks to three egregious throwing errors.

The New What Next

Jake Odorizzi will butt heads with Allen Webster and the Red Sox tonight. Webster (3-2, 5.81 ERA) put together a good three hit/two run outing against Tampa Bay back at the end of July — his first start with the Red Sox. He’s given up 18 runs in 25-2/3 innings since, good for a 6.31 ERA. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.

Rays 8/30/14 Starting Lineup

Zobrist SS
Myers RF
Joyce DH
Longoria 3B
Loney 1B
Guyer LF
Forsythe 2B
Hanigan C
Kiermaier CF
Odorizzi RHP

Noteworthiness

  • Neither Yunel Escobar or Desmond Jennings are in tonight’s lineup. Jennings has sore left knee. And Escobar? Joe Maddon, in yesterday’s pre-game show (on WDAE) mentioned that he wanted to give Escobar a day-off/mental break somehow. I suspect this is how he’s going about that.
  • Back in May, when the Rays were mired in their worst play of the season, I just wanted to see them play consistent baseball. Then June happened, and the potential for a postseason berth seemed reasonable. Joe Maddon set a goal for the team to reach .500 in a specific window of time. While that window had to be expanded, Tampa Bay reached .500 — even though the promise of the postseason faded. At this point and again, I’d just like to see Tampa Bay play solid ball.
  • Speaking of Odorizzi, Alex Skillin of Beyond the Box Score writes, Jake “is a far different—and better—pitcher than the one who debuted for Tampa Bay last season.
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Rays 8/29/14 Starting Lineup, Etc

Rays 8/29/14 Starting Lineup

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

Noteworthiness

  • The Rays committed errors in their last five games — the longest streak since May of 2012 when they committed errors in seven consecutive games. Of note: That was right after Longoria got hurt, and everyone was playing in different positions every night.
  • If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Rays/Red Sox series preview. If you have, make it a two’fer.
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    The New What Next: Enter the Prima Donna and the Red Sox — A Series Preview of Sorts

    Evan Longoria rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles, Thursday. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    Evan Longoria rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles, Thursday. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

    If you subscribe to the idea that the Tampa Bay Rays still have a shot of a postseason berth — albeit it an incredible small shot — then it is safe to assume that the upcoming 10 game home stand is incredibly important. To put it bluntly, if they don’t walk away with three series wins against their AL East foes, they’re toast.

    Enter the Red Sox.

    The Sox look significantly different than they had in their late July visit to The Trop. Gone are pitchers Jon Lester, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Andrew Miller; outfielder Jonny Gomes; and Stephen Drew. Moreover, Jackie Bradley Jr. has been optioned to Triple-A, Mike Carp is now a Ranger, and Shane Victorino and Xander Bogaerts on the DL. They brought in Yeonis Cespedes, Allen Craig and RHP Joe Kelly, as well as a bunch of prospects and minor-leaguers. Those stalwarts David Ortiz (30 homers, 94 RBI), Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli are still on the roster. After dropping eight straight, they took two-of-three from the Blue Jays.

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

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

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

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

    Rays and Red Sox (by the numbers).

    Rays and Red Sox (by the numbers).

    Anthony Ranaudo: The 24-year-old RHP took the spot of the recently departed John Lackey. Ranaudo was 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA in 21 starts with Triple-A Pawtucket. He posted 99 strikeouts and a two-to-one K/BB in 119-1/3 innings. Ranaudo features a mid 90′s fastball which he’s able to execute down in the zone, a good curveball, and a change that he can throw against both righties and lefties.

    Allen Webster: Webster (3-2, 5.81 ERA) put together a good three hit/two run outing against Tampa Bay back at the end of July — his first start with the Red Sox. He’s given up 18 runs in 25-2/3 innings since, good for a 6.31 ERA. Key matchups: Desmond Jennings (1-3, 2B, 2 RBI), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2), Ben Zobrist (1-1, 2 BB). 

    Clay Buchholz: If I may, Buchholz (5-8, 5.77 ERA) has been abysmal this season. The Red Sox are 4-8 in their last 12 games when Buchholz has taken the  mound. Meanwhile, the 30 year-old RHP has given four or more runs in seven of those 12 games. Red Sox GM Ben suggested that Buchholz doesn’t have a consistent feel for his secondary pitches, namely his changeup. “He’s always been a guy who’s gotten hitters out with his entire mix, not by being a fastball-dominant pitcher, not by relying exclusively on one pitch, but by mixing and using all his pitches in all parts of the zone and being hard to hit because he’s unpredictable,” Said Cherington. “He just has not had a feel for the entire mix this year. That’s sort of the end result.” Key matchups: Matt Joyce (6-22, 2B, 2 RBI, 4 BB), Jose Molina (7-22, 2B, 4 RBI, BB), Sean Rodriguez (3-10, 2B, RBI).

    Rubby De La Rosa: De La Rosa (4-5, 3.81 ERA) absolutely owned the Rays in his only start against Tampa Bay on May 31, holding Longo and company to only four hits in a seven inning gem. He walked none, and struck out eight. De La Rosa is a pretty traditional pitcher with a good change-up (18% whiffs), however he’s thrown fewer of them and his strikeout rate halved (22.6% to 10.8%) and his walk rate doubled (5.5% to 11.4%). Key matchups: Desmond Jennings (1-4), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2), James Loney (1-3), Evan Longoria (1-4), Wil Myers (1-1, 2B, RBI), Ben Zobrist (1-3, 2B).

    Noteworthiness

    • Per Marc Topkin, it’s looking like the Rays will call up four or five players Monday, probably Curt Casali, David DeJesus, Brandon Gomes, and another reliever. They may wait on adding another starter with Durham in the playoffs.
    • Drew Smyly is at a career-most 141-1/3 innings. The Rays are planning on limiting him to 150-160 innings (in the regular season).
    • Over the last 15 games (and 64 at-bats) Evan Longoria has batted for a .266 BA and slugged for a .438 SLG, with three homers and two doubles, seven runs, and 16 runs batted in.
    • Xander Bogaerts, who was on the concussion DL, is expected back Saturday.
    • The Rays lead the season series 7-5, and are 5-1 at The Trop. The Red Sox lead 167-123 overall, and are 74-71 at Tropicana Field.
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    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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