The Tampa Bay Rays dropped the first game of their current three-game series with the Blue Jays, 8-4. The loss followed a similar pattern: take the lead, then lose the lead (or in this case a pair of lead) late because of a bullpen malfunction. In fact, it was the eighth time in Tampa Bay’s last nine defeats that the team lost a lead of some sort. I’ll spare you the gory details; you can read about the loss here and here.
The skinny recap; Archer was on cruise control for most of the night, retiring 11 straight batters at one point and six straight before the seventh inning walk to Russell Martin, bringing Kendrys Morales to the plate. Meanwhile, Chase Whitley, who hadn’t allowed an earned run, was warming in the ‘pen. Cash stuck with Archer — in spite of a lapse of fastball command — and Morales delivered for Toronto, crushing a two-run homer to right to knot the game at three.
Cash cited a relatively efficient pitch count in his decision to hedge his bets on Archer:
Still had a ton of confidence in Arch to make some big pitches, Cash said. Knew he was getting close but not quite to where we had to make a change.
Something that Neil Solondz and I spoke about (me on Twitter, he on the radio) last night, was that Archer was again victimized the third and fourth times through the order. And though it would be unfair, neigh…irresponsible to blame the loss solely on Archer, especially since the Rays were able to scratch out a run in the bottom of the seventh inning, how Cash used the bullpen — which ultimately gave up the ghost in the eighth — was effected.
Solondz brought up the point that Archer’s repertoire makes him an easier pitcher to figure out the third and fourth times through the order.
Last season, Archer’s pitching breakout looked like this:
Compare that with this season:
The difference? When looking at pitch usage alone, Chris Archer has used his changeup much less often, effectively making him a fastball/slider pitcher. Last night was par for the course with respect to that, as he threw only five changeups (all for strikes, two whiffs). That infinitesimally small number of changeups certainly wasn’t enough to keep the Blue Jays’ hitters — namely Morales — off that mistake fastball left over the plate, i.e. making him predictable.
Again, I’m not implying that Archer is to blame for the loss. However, in order for him to stave off the third and fourth time through the order blues, it may behoove him to mix in a few more changeups here and there.
The New What Next
The Rays will turn today to Jake Odorizzi (1-1, 3.50 ERA, 5.21 FIP) this afternoon. He’ll be opposed by Marco Estrada (1-1, 2.43 ERA, 2.94 FIP).
Odorizzi returned from the disabled list Monday and shut the Marlins down, allowing one lowly earned run on two hits and a walk, with six strikeouts over five innings. Odo pitched well, giving up just a sacrifice-fly after an error in the first inning, and a solo homer to Marcell Ozuna in the fourth. He was efficient, needing just 78 pitches to make it through five innings, but his absence over the last couple of weeks without a rehab assignment was the cause of the early exit. Odorizzi is 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 12 career starts against Toronto.
Estrada, whom the Rays beat up to the tune of five runs over seven innings on April 9, has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his six starts this season. The right-hander pitched extremely well in his last start, inducing weak contact time after time, and only allowing just a run after a small rally in the fourth inning. He relinquished five runs in his second outing of the season, however, Estrada has now been scored upon just four times in his last 26 innings, allowing him to lower his ERA to a stellar 2.43 (3.53 FIP). He also has raised his K/9 to 9.2 this season. Saturday should be an interesting contest, to say the least. Key matchups: Corey Dickerson (5-11, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Kevin Kiermaier (7-20, 2B, 3B, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Daniel Robertson (1-2), Jesus Sucre (1-2, HR, RBI)
Rays 5/6/17 Starting Lineup
— Kevin Kiermaier left the game last night because he couldn’t turn his wrist over when swinging the bat after getting hit by a Francisco Liriano pitch on his hand. X-Rays taken after he was pulled thankfully came out negative.
Kiermaier was none to pleased by the HBP:
I know he likes throwing inside, but I just went back and watched the video. (Catcher) Russell Martin is setting up outside and he missed up and in. Squared me up with a heater right on a terrible spot on my hand, so that really bothers me. Who knows what his thought process is or anything, but anytime you miss up and in, us batters, no matter what the situation is, you have a reason to be mad or whatever. It hit me in the hand, made me come out of the game, made me mad. I’m not going to forget that.
— The Rays designated left-hander Justin Marks for assignment, and reinstated Erasmo Ramirez from the paternity list.
— Matt Duffy Duffy took ground balls at the Trop today. He plans to run the bases Sunday and Monday, then “we’ll see from there” with respect to starting his rehab assignment.