Another night, another Rays loss that didn’t need to be. The Rays pitching staff once again gave up an early lead, only to leave Tampa Bay on the wrong side of the win/loss column.
This time it was Jeremy Hellickson’s turn to crap the proverbial bed after the offense jumped out to an early 5-0 lead thanks in part to a pair of back-to-back Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist solo shots in the first inning. The Rays have now fallen to 12-15 on the season, and seven games out of first place.
Ultimately posting an attenuated 5.0 IP/9 H/4 R/4 ER/1BB/5 K/1 HR line on 91 pitches (58 for strikes), Hellickson started off the game off well, allowing two base runners on a pair of weakly hit balls in the front two innings. The Royals couldn’t convert those base runners, and the Rays looked like they were in command of things. And then the third, fourth, and fifth innings happened.
Hellickson would go on to give up four runs on six hits — three singles, a double, a triple, and an Elliot Johnson home run — a walk, and a hit by pitch over the course of three innings. Though his unraveling was less immediate than Cobb’s the day prior, it was no less destructive.
The once dependable Jake McGee came on in relief of Helly in the sixth and leant a hand in turning the Rays two-run lead into a three-run deficit. McGee quickly gave up a single to Salvador Perez and then proceeded to give up four more singles and a walk, relinquishing five runs before getting pulled in lieu of Kyle Farnsworth.
On a related note, Michael Valancius of DRaysBay looked at McGee’s outings in 2013 and found,
When a one pitch pitcher gets behind in the count, the batter will have a huge advantage. That has been Jake’s problem this year. Last year, McGee threw the ball in the zone 53.5% of the time. This year, he has hit the zone only 46.3% of the time. The percentage of times batters are swinging has dropped from 54.4% to 46.9%. Batter’s aren’t making more contact with his pitches in the zone; moreover, all of his contact stats are similar to last year. With two strikes last year, batter’s put the ball in play 20.77% of the time. This year, they are putting it in play 19.35% of the time. It is true that batters are fouling off instead of whiffing at pitches more often with two strikes this year, but the difference is not drastic.
Consider this: batters had 78 ABs against McGee last year in a two or three ball count. Of those at bats, 22% resulted in hits. This year, McGee has had 13 ABs in two or three ball counts. Batters are getting hits off of him 23% of the time in those situations. When you fall behind in the count, you are going to struggle. In order for McGee to succeed, he needs to command his fastball. When he does that, the walks will go down and (hopefully) the hits will follow suit.
I’d also imagine that the league has adjusted to him to some extent. His heat maps from the last two seasons look very similar, though he was much more effective last season than he has been this:
The combination of missing the zone at certain times, along with the hitters knowing what’s coming, have found a very hittable Jake McGee in 2013 thus far…one that we’re relatively unfamiliar with. Personally, I want back the McGee that was presumably being groomed for the 2014 closer spot; the one that was deadly in 2012.
The very unsure fielding by Yunel Escobar didn’t help the cause either. A pair of misplayed balls easily cost the Rays 2-to-3 runs. Ultimately though, the responsibility for the blown lead lay in the hands of Hellickson and McGee.
On the subject of the Rays blowing a five run lead, Todd Kalas tweeted,
May 1 is not the #Rays favorite day. Last time TB blew a five-run lead was 2 years ago today 5/1/2011 vs. ANA
Though we’re still relatively early into a young season, something has got to change if the Rays are going to be a plus .500 team, much less one vying for a playoff berth come September. Moving on.
The New What Next
The Rays will try to steal a game from the Royals, in an afternoon match-up with Roberto Hernandez on the mound. You can read about today’s match-up here. We’ll post the starting lineup when it becomes available.
Rays 5/2/13 Starting Lineup
- All was not lost, the Rays offense looked pretty good. Three Rays went yard — back-to-back homers by Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist in the first, and a Luke Scott solo shot — extending the Rays streak to 16 consecutive games with a home run.
- Per Marc Topkin via Twitter, “Umpire Tom Hallion, tweeting #Rays players (Price, Hellickson, Moore) will be fined by MLB stemming from Sunday incident. No suspensions” The fine for Price, Moore, and Hellickson was $1,000, while Halion was also fined for his actions and reaction. Cobb was not fined. We’ll talk more about this following today’s game.
- The Royals are saying that every effort will be made to play today’s game — in part because the makeup possibilities are especially unappealing.