Coming off an imperfect 6-5 win* against the Cincinnati Reds, the Tampa Bay Rays look to close out their Interleague Series against the southern Ohioans with a win Wednesday afternoon. Erasmo Ramirez (2-2, 6.48 ERA, 4.63 FIP) looks to improve on his last four starts, and will pitch opposite of Tim Adleman (4-3, 4.35 ERA, 5.23 FIP).
In last night’s game, to the detriment of the team, the Rays made trio of outfield misplays, which Kevin Cash described as being “a debacle.” One such play came in the third inning, when Corey Dickerson and Peter Bourjos allowed Adam Duvall’s fly-ball to drop into left-centerfield for a triple. Two pitches later, Eugenio Suarez singled to center, allowing Duvall to score the Reds’ second run of the game. It’s but one example of the type of gaffes that must be cleaned up if the Rays are to have any hope of maintaining relevancy into the fall.
But in spite of the defensive miscues — paired with Tommy Hunter and Alex Colome’s making of things a little too interesting in the eighth and ninth innings — Tampa Bay turned in its 38th win of the season behind Alex Cobb’s strong start, and some timely hitting.
Between the first and third innings Cobb allowed eight hits, yet only one over his last frames. The right-hander fanned six and walked just two. It appears that Cobb has rediscovered his vintage changeup — a pitch that continues to evolve as the season progresses … a pitch that had been his main weapon before his May 2015 Tommy John surgery.
Cobb has gotten more comfortable with it of late, and it’s regained some of its pre-surgery depth; the thing that made it such a dangerous weapon in the first place. He has shaved two-to-three inches of vertical movement off the pitch since the start of the season. For Cobb, the velocity never has been what’s made the pitch deadly, rather it is the movement. Bereft of the late break, his split-change became a meatball over the plate that begged to be crushed.
He threw his split-change 25 times Tuesday — 16 for strikes, 5 whiffs — and 80 total over his past four starts.
Over the last three, four games, there’s been a lot of good signs with it, Cobb said after the game. Working on making it as consistent as my other two pitches. And to get to that I just have to keep throwing it and hopefully find some situations throughout the game where I can work on it and try to get that feel to where I can go to it like I used to when it was my best pitch.
Something that was a rarity in the past, his teammates gave him lots of run support last night, thanks in part to a pair of fourth inning homers by Jesus Sucre and Dickerson.
Talk about hitting a ball on a line! Sucre’s homer had an apex height 38 feet and it became one of the five lowest homers in the StatCast era.
How about a homer with an apex of just 38 feet? This was the Sucre homer just now pic.twitter.com/GwDhBocF93
— Jason Collette (@jasoncollette) June 21, 2017
Two batters later, Dickerson powered an opposite field homer to section 147.
Corey Dickerson lifts a solo home run to left-center field, extending the Rays’ lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the 4th inning
The extra run proved crucial, as it became the ultimate difference in the game.
*Hey now, a win is a win.
The New What Next
Erasmo Ramirez could be pitching today to keep his spot in the rotation. He has struggled over his past four starts, posting two losses and an unsightly 10.05 ERA. On Friday, the Tigers pounded him to the tune of 10 runs (eight earned) in 4-2/3 innings. As I wrote on Saturday, it may be time to move Erasmo back to the ‘pen where he’s been more successful; this outing likely will be a bellwether for the right-hander.
Adleman has been the Reds’ most consistent starter, as he’s gone at least five innings and given up three runs or fewer in each of his last five starts. However, the Reds haven’t capitalized, going 2-3 in those games. Because he’s a fly ball pitcher, Adleman doesn’t generate nearly enough ground balls, leading to one of the worst HR/9 ratios in the league. It will be interesting to see if the 29 year-old right-hander leans on his plus curveball Wednesday afternoon in an attempt to keep the ball in the park. The breaking pitch ranks fifth in whiffs per swing, and it has been above average at inducing grounders and making it a tough pitch to do anything with. He’s also cultivated a .000 ISO and a .133 BAA with the curveball, although he’s thrown it just 10% of the time this season — down from 18% a season ago. He has never faced the Rays.
Rays 6/21/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr. RF
— Day game after a night game, neither Evan Longoria nor Colby Rasmus are in the lineup. Tim Beckham, who is mending from an HBP in Monday’s game, should be back in the lineup when the Orioles come to town Friday.
— Wilson Ramos was the DH yesterday for the Durham Bulls and went 1-for-4 with a two-run double. Brad Boxberger is expected to pitch today for the Bulls. Both are expected to join the team this weekend; Boxberger on Friday, and Ramos on Sunday.