Blake Snell and David Price locked up for a pitcher’s duel on Friday, yet it was the Rays former ace that came out on top. The Boston Red Sox evened the Opening Series with the Tampa Bay Rays at one, winning 1-0 at Tropicana Field.
Snell allowed three hits and two walks while fanning two in over 5-2/3 innings, on 84 pitches (49 strikes; 59% strike ratio). After the game, Snell said he was “happy with (my) consistency in the zone … happy with my tempo … happy with my defense, I mean they really played great,” while also complimenting Ramos’ work behind the plate.
.@RaysBaseball left-hander Blake Snell talks about his first start of the season Friday night, saying he liked his tempo and gave credit to the defense the team played behind him. #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/5Na7IcsKns
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) March 31, 2018
He, however, recognized that he needed to attack the zone more, especially later in the game — against a good contact team like the Red Sox — and that he tried to rack up the strikeouts and be a little too dirty. That, a handful of deep counts, and a pair of walks speak to his marginally high number of pitches thrown (14.8 pitches per inning). Compare that with Price, who got into just two three-ball counts over his seven inning start — all on just 76 pitches (55 strikes, 72% strike ratio).
Both starters cruised through the first five innings, although each team got a runner into scoring position in the fourth. In the top of that frame, the Rays defense really stepped up.
With two outs, Hanley Ramirez singled to left off Snell before J.D. Martinez worked a free pass. Xander Bogaerts then looped a ball to shallow left, but Rob Refsnyder made a sensational diving catch to end the frame.
Ramos also gunned down Christian Vazquez at second as he attempted to move up on a passed ball in the third inning. Over the first two games, his arm strength and accuracy have looked absolutely filthy. I should also acknowledge Adeiny Hechavarria’s tumbling catch in shallow left, which robbed Eduardo Nunez of a bloop single in the same inning.
— Tampa Bay Devil Rays (@RaysBaseball) March 30, 2018
Snell, for the most part, cruised through Boston’s lineup until the sixth inning. With one out, the left-hander walked Mookie Betts on five pitches before Andrew Benintendi flew out to deep left for the second out. Yet Ramirez looped a ball to right, and Carlos Gomez appeared to lose the ball in the lights, allowing it to fall in for a single. And with runners on the corners and 84 pitches under Snell’s belt, Kevin Cash called upon Chaz Roe to face Martinez. The $110-million man struck out on a breaking pitch to end the threat.
Roe took the mound again in the seventh, but his night was done after he allowed a leadoff double to left to Bogaerts. With a lefty Rafael Devers stepping into the batter’s box, Cash called upon flame throwing southpaw Jose Alvarado.
Alvarado got ahead of Devers 0-2 before he allowed an RBI ground single to center, making it a one run game. Nunez followed by chopping a ball off the plate, wide of first, and beat it out for an infield hit. Nevertheless, Alvarado got Jackie Bradley Jr. to roll into a 4-6-3 double play, then fanned Vazquez to limit the damage.
On the other side of the plate, the Rays got a chance to plate a run in the bottom of the fourth when Kevin Kiermaier reached on an infield hit; the first hit of the game for Tampa Bay. Then C.J. Cron singled hard to left with two outs, bringing Ramos to the plate. But the catcher flew out to deep right to end the inning.
Matt Andriese kept Tampa Bay within a run by throwing a pair of scoreless innings to finish the game, which also signaled that he would not be starting the bullpen duty game on Saturday.
In the end, one run was enough for Price, who scattered four singles and went on to fan five. After losing the lead on Thursday, Matt Barnes threw a scoreless eighth — although he did allow a walk to Denard Span — while Craig Kimbrel struck out the side to notch his first save of the season.
If you don’t expect to much from me, you might not be let down.
The New What Next
The Rays will break in their first bullpen day of the season on Saturday, and Andrew Kittredge will technically get the start. The ‘pen will be opposed by former Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello.
Kittredge will make the 12th start of his pro career, and the first in the majors. The right-hander pitched 2-2/3 innings in each of his final two spring training outings.
Just like the way he threw the ball in spring training, Cash said when asked why Kittredge. (I) think he can go in there and provide some length for us and get us to where we need to get the bullpen going.
Expect either Ryan Yarbrough or Yonny Chirinos to follow Kittredge on the mound.
Talk about a descent into mediocrity. Pocello went from a 3.15 ERA and 1.01 WHIP Cy Young Award winning 2016 campaign, to a 4.65 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 2017. His home run per nine innings rate ballooned to 1.68, while nearly all his pitches got launched into the outfield stands — including his vaunted sinker. As FanGraphs found, his pair of fastballs that fueled his 2016 success each saw their ISOs balloon, averaging .206 between them and allowing a combined 22 HR. Meanwhile, his changeup – a pitch known as a consistent strike-earning offering early in counts – faced a similar fate, getting slapped with a .276 ISO and 24.0% HR/FB rate. There’s reason to believe his stuff just isn’t all that great. His fastball velocity hovers around 90 mph, and he not only needs to effectively control his pitches, but also mix them well. He also needs to sprinkle in some deception to get through lineups. He may come closer to returning to his 2017 form, however, that amazing season should be viewed as the exception, not the rule. Key Matchups: CJ Cron (2-4, 2B, BB), Matt Duffy (3-10), Carlos Gomez (1-3, HR, RBI), Brad Miller (11-37, 4 2B, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 2 BB), Rob Refsnyder (1-3), Denard Span (13-35, 4 RBI, 2 BB)
Rays 3/31/18 Starting Lineup
— The Rays will throw a 1998 party on Saturday, with Devil Rays uniforms, a pre-game ceremony, and more. Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) detailed the events, writing:
The Rays are turning back the clock with more than just throwback Devil Rays uniforms today, honoring the inaugural 1998 team on the 20th anniversary of the first game in franchise history.
Eighteen 1998 players (headlined by Hall of Famer Wade Boggs), two coaches (Orlando Gomez, Greg Riddoch), GM Chuck LaMar and managing general partner Vince Naimoli are all expected at Trop for a series of memory-stirring events, topped by an on-field ceremony before the 6:10 p.m. game vs. Boston.
Wilson Alvarez, who threw the first pitch in franchise history, will have the ceremonial honors tonight, throwing to Mike DiFelice (standing in for starter John Flaherty, who has Yankees TV duties), with now-retired umpire Richie Garcia agaun behind the plate.
The Rays also will unveil a 20th anniversary exhibit in space near the team store and Ted Williams museum. Several 1998 players will sign autographs there starting around 4:30 p.m. after greet fans in the rotunda area when gates open at 4:10. Fans will received a 1998 replica seat cushion, similar to the purple ones given out at the inaugural game.
Other players scheduled to attend include: Rolando Arrojo, Rich Butler, Miguel Cairo, Rick Gorecki, Roberto Hernandez, Aaron Ledesma, Albie Lopez, Quinton McCracken, Jim Mecir, Bryan Rekar, Tony Saunders, Bobby Smith, Dennis Springer, Randy Winn and Esteban Yan.