Roberto Hernandez, who had never given up more than two homers in a game, yields three. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)
Roberto Hernandez, who had never given up more than two homers in a game, yields three. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

I think that Rays beat writer Marc Topkin did a good job of putting last night’s 5-4 loss into perspective,

One of the concerning characteristics of this Rays team through the first 3½ weeks of play is the frequency in which it has let games get away.

It happened again Friday in a 5-4 loss to the White Sox, as a 3-0 lead disappeared quickly. Roberto Hernandez, the Rays pitcher who rarely gives up home runs, watched three fly out of the park, and the offense sputtered again.

For the 16th time this season, the Rays took the initial lead yet let it slip away to the Chicago White Sox. They are only 8-7 in those games and 10-13 overall. To add insult to injury, they are now 2-9 on the road in 2013. Ouch.

Chalk it up to two factors that sound tired and rhetorical by now: Rays starter Roberto Hernandez allowed things to get away after looking good to start the game, and the offense couldn’t capitalize on a few key scoring opportunities. I’m as tired of saying it as you are of hearing it.

Things were going relatively well for Hernandez in the front three innings, allowing only one hit — a second inning double to Adam Dunn who moved to third on a passed ball with Paul Konerko at the plate. Though Hernandez has been wan to give up the big meatball when he’s frustrated, and this was the perfect opportunity for his old habits to get the best of him, they did not. He kept the ball low, kept working his pitches, and was able to get Konerko to fly out to right, Gillespie to ground out to second, and strikeout Ramirez to end the inning. Crisis averted.

Tampa Bay got on the board in their half of the third inning when Matt Joyce took an outside pitch down the line for a home run that landed just inside of the foul pole. Evan Longoria did much the same in the fourth, reaching out across the plate, taking a 1-2 pitch off end of his bat 374 feet to the opposite field. The Rays were able to tag Peavy for another run in the inning thanks to a James Loney double, a Sean Rodriguez sac bunt, and a Kelly Johnson line drive single.

Typically a ground-ball pitcher, Hernandez had never allowed more than two homers in his first 189 big-league games. That changed last night — Hernandez wouldn’t be nearly as good in the fourth through sixth innings.

Tyler Greene dribbled a grounder to center for a single to start the fourth inning, and Alex Rios followed that up with a fielder’s choice that was fielded well, but was hit too softly for the Rays to turn a double play. After a pair of line drive singles on elevated pitches — including an Adam Dunn RBI base hit — Jim Hickey made a visit to the mound to calm Hernandez down. The visit elicited a three pitch strikeout and a soft ground-out to shortstop. Hernandez was able to get out of the inning by relenting only a run.

Hector Gimenez went yard on an elevated slider to start the fifth inning. And after Alejandro De Aza hit a soft single up the middle, Tyler Greene sent first pitch elevated sinker over the center field wall. Then in the sixth inning, Conor Gillaspie sent an elevated 0-2 sinker right over the center of the plate deep to right field. Hernandez was able to get out of the inning after a ground-out and line-out, but not before the damage was done.

The problem du jour? Hernandez frequently left elevated sinkers and sliders over the plate. Jamey Wright and Brandon Gomes would come on in relief, both inducing a pair of 1-2-3 innings. Gomes looked really good, striking out Dunn and Konerko back-to-back in his inning of work.

The Rays bats went cold for three innings, though they came back to life in the seventh and eighth innings. With two outs in the eighth, Evan Longoria reached on infield single to third. Things started looking up when James Loney singled to center, moving Longoria to second. But with two on and two outs, Sean Rodriguez would end the threat by fouling out to third.

Tampa Bay would have one more shot in the ninth. With Addison Reed on the mound, Jose Molina sent a double off the wall to center. Sam Fuld fouled out in the next at-bat, but Joyce followed things up by lacing a single to right, scoring a hustling Jose Molina. Maddon would immediately put a pinch runner (Desmond Jennings) into the game for Joyce, and let Ryan Roberts come to the plate. With the pressure mounting, Reed walked Roberts on five pitches, bringing Ben Zobrist to the plate.

Ian Malinowski summed up Zobrist’s at-bat well,

The first pitch was Zorilla’s pitch to hit, a fastball over the plate, thigh high, but he took it. The second pitch was a change of pace, a little bit lower, and Zobrist took it for a strike, probably smartly. Th third pitch was a fastball inside that Ben swung at and barely got a piece of. Pitch number four was a low slider that Zobrist could not quite check his swing on. The tense at bat and the game were over.

Like I said, chalk it up to the same-old-same. A reader of this here blog summed things up, simply saying,

“Tired of not winning a simple game.”

The New What Next

Matt Moore (4-0, 1.04 ERA) will go for his fifth straight win Saturday night against Gavin Floyd (0-3, 4.98 ERA) and the White Sox. If anyone on the staff is capable of pulling the Rays out of this funk, it is Moore. Per Rotowire, Floyd went six strong innings, yielding a mere run on three hits and three walks while recording six strikeouts, but took a no-decision in Sunday’s loss to the Twins. You can read more on the match-up here.

Rays 4/27/13 Starting Lineup

Jennings CF
Joyce RF
Zobrist SS
Longoria 3B
Loney 1B
Duncan DH
Johnson 2B
Molina C
Fuld LF
Moore LHP


  • Luke Scott was removed from a rehab game Friday night when his right elbow stiffened up after being hit by pitch. He is listed as day to day.
  • Yunel Escobar is again out of the lineup for Saturday night’s game. No word yet on the reason, though he was reportedly out for another early workout with head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, trying to show he’s ready to return to lineup.
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